NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court has refused to quash a 2007 CBI FIR and charge sheet filed against Major General (retired) V K Singh for allegedly disclosing secret information by publication of his book titled as 'India's External Intelligence- Secrets of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW)'.
Singh contended he has sought to highlight two major issues, that is, lack of accountability and corruption in RAW, the country's external intelligence agency.
A single bench of Justice Mukta Gupta, however, pointed out but the grievance of the CBI is with regard to disclosure of the names of the officer, location of the places and recommendations of the Group of Ministers etc.
"This court had earlier noted in case of Nisha Priya Bhatia that what prejudices the national security cannot be decided by the courts...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 said.
On a complaint filed by B Bhattacharjee, Deputy Secretary, Government of India, Cabinet Secretariat, the CBI lodged the case against Singh on September 20, 2007 under the Official Secrets Act.
In its 49-page order, the bench said even though the “entire tenor of the book of the petitioner highlights certain irregularities etc, at RAW”, however, the CBI’s grievance was with respect “to the names of the officer, location of the places and recommendations of the GOM etc”.
"Even in the present case, the recommendations of the GOM, which were deleted from publication, have been reproduced verbatim by the petitioner," the bench said.
The court also said the petitioner has heavily relied upon some other books and articles wherein references have been made to the recommendations of the GOM but it may be noted that in none of those articles or publications the recommendations of the GOM have been reproduced verbatim.
The petitioner claimed he has sought to expose the corruption and malpractices in book and thus the lines as noted in the complaint and relied by the CBI cannot be read in isolation.
He relied upon certain portions of the book to show that it only highlighted the shortcomings, lack of professionalism, accountability, malpractices and corruption.
The court, however, said a bare perusal of Section 5 of the OSA notes that if an officer has had access owing to his position as a person holding office or as having held such an office, in case such an officer fails to take reasonable care of, or so conducts himself as to endanger the safety of the sketch, plan, model, article, note, document, secret official code or password or information, he shall be guilty of the said offence.
"In the light of the provision of Section 5 Subsection 1(d) of the OSA the book written by the petitioner is to be analyzed," the bench said.
The court also noted the petitioner himself filed a complaint with regard two other books, namely, “Inside RAW: The Story of India’s Secret Service” by Asoka Raina, and “The Kaoboys of R&AW-Down Memory Lane” by B Raman.
"Even though the petitioner has now withdrawn the complaint, the fact that the petitioner preferred a complaint under Sections 3 & 5 of the OS Act against others for this material, it is evident that even as per the petitioner's own understanding, disclosure of facts relating to the GOM recommendations amounted to an offence under Sections 3 & 5 of the OS Act," the bench said.
The court also noted both the authors Raman and Raina had passed away.