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Delhi HC refuses to quash CBI case against VK Singh for revealing secret information in book

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New Delhi | May 31, 2023 11:08:08 PM IST
While dismissing pleas of Major General (Retd.) VK Singh, the Delhi High Court refused to quash a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) case against the former RAW official for allegedly revealing secret information in his book "India's External Intelligence- Secrets of Research and Analysis Wing".

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday said, "What prejudices the national security cannot be decided by the Courts."

VK Singh had in 2008 moved a petition seeking the quashing of the CBI FIR and charge sheet against him. He had also sought a stay on trial in the matter.

Justice Mukta Gupta said, "It would be a matter of trial after the witnesses are examined to see whether the revelations by the petitioner in his book is likely to affect the sovereignty and integrity of India and/or the security of the State."

"No doubt, the entire tenor of the book of the petitioner highlights certain irregularities etc. at RAW but the grievance of the respondent is as to the names of the officer, location of the places and recommendations of the GOM etc," Justice Gupta noted in the judgment passed on May 31.

Justice Mukta Gupta said, "This Court in the decisions as noted in the case of petitioner himself as also in case of Nisha Priya Bhatia has noted that what prejudices the national security cannot be decided by the Courts."

"Even in the present case, the recommendations of the GOM, which were deleted from publication, have been reproduced verbatim by the petitioner," the bench noted.

"The petitioner has heavily relied upon some other books and articles wherein references have been made to the recommendations of the Group of Ministers (GOM) but it may be noted that in none of those articles or publications the recommendations of the GOM have been reproduced verbatim," the court said.

"It may also be noted that the petitioner himself was of the opinion that similar revelations by the two other authors and publishers amounted to an offence under the Official Secrets Act and thus filed a complaint wherein cognizance was taken by the learned CMM; though on a challenge before this Court, the same was set aside as the complaint was not filed by the competent authority," it added.

"Thus, it would be a matter of trial after the witnesses are examined to see whether the revelations by the petitioner in his book is likely to affect the sovereignty and integrity of India and/or the security of the State," the bench observed.

A complaint was filed by B.Bhattacharjee, Deputy Secretary, Government of India, Cabinet Secretariat with CBI seeking legal action against the petitioner Major General (retired) VK Singh under the provisions of Officials Secrets Act on which FIR on September 20, 2007, was registered by CBI against the petitioner.

"The allegations in the FIR against the petitioner are that he revealed secret information by the publication of his book titled "India's External Intelligence- Secrets of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW)".

On an application filed by CBI, search warrants were issued by the court on September 20, 2007, permitting CBI officers to conduct a search of the premises of the petitioner, whereafter the search was conducted and a compliance report was filed on September 24, 2007.

The Central Government by its order of April 7, 2008, under the Officials Secrets Act, 1923 authorized Saurabh Tripathi, S.P., CBI to file a complaint in this respect in the Court.

On April 9, 2008, a complaint was filed against the petitioner and Vivek Garg under Section 13 of the Officials Secrets Act (OSA).

On an application, the complaint filed by CBI was stayed till further proceedings pending and filing of chargesheet.

The final report in the investigation in FIR under Sections 3 and 5 of OSA and under Sections 120B and 409 Indian Penal Code (IPC) against the petitioner was filed on April 11, 2008, with a request to keep the classified documents in sealed cover.

On April 17, 2008, the Trial Court tagged the charge sheet and the complaint case against the petitioner.

The CMM Court had taken Cognizance on January 31, 2009, of the complaint for an offence punishable under Sections 3 and 5 of OSA and on the charge sheet for an offence punishable under Section 409 read with Section 120B IPC, however, sanction was received on April 1, 2009.

Thereafter, the petition seeking quashing of the FIR and charge sheet was filed. Later, an application seeking a stay of the trial wherein this Court on February 13, 2009, exempted the petitioner from appearing personally before the Trial Court.

It was argued by the counsel for the petitioner VK Singh that the petitioner's intention to write the book was to highlight two major issues, that is, lack of accountability and corruption in the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW).

According to the petitioner, he reported the instances of corruption that came to his notice while he was serving in R&AW itself. One such is the procurement of VHF/UHF Antennae and the second regarding the procurement of communication equipment by SPG.

It was the case of the petitioner that initially the deals were put on hold however, as the petitioner left R&AW, deals were revived and equipment was purchased at the original price.

It was also submitted that the charge of the CBI on the petitioner of revealing secrets that are allegedly harmful to the country's security and sovereignty is totally baseless and unfounded.

It was submitted by the counsel for the petitioner that on January 31, 2009, the CMM took cognizance of the offence under Sections 3/5 of OSA, 1923 along with Sections 409 read with Section 120B of IPC without the requisite sanction by the Central Government as required in terms of Section 197 of Cr.P.C. and thus, it makes the cognizance so taken as arbitrary and Consequently renders the entire proceedings as void.

It is pertinent to mention that the sanction was subsequently signed on April 1, 2009, which clearly establishes that the sanction was accorded after two months of taking the cognizance whereas, Section 197 Cr.P.C. clearly mandates the requirement of a "previous sanction", the high court said in the judgment. (ANI)

 
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