Indian Military senior officers convicted for leaking secret documents for financial gains

Indian Military senior officers convicted for leaking secret documents for financial gains

NEW DELHI - Indian Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court on Saturday (July 7) delivered its sentence in an offshoot of the 2005 Navy War Room leak case.

The court convicted the accused Captain (retired) Salam Singh Rathore under Section 3(1) C of the Official Secrets Act of 1923. The court acquitted the other accused Commander (retired) Jarnail Singh Kalra of wrongdoing in the case. The quantum of the sentence is to be pronounced on July 11.

The 2005 Navy War Room leak case involves leaking of over 7,000 pages of defence information of sensitive nature from the naval war room and air defence headquarters, where serving officers allegedly passed on military secrets to unauthorised persons for financial gain.

The case came to light in early 2005 when the Air Force Intelligence put an Air Force Directorate Officer, allegedly having an extra-marital affair, under surveillance. The details of the investigation led to revelations that had a serious bearing on national security.

The IAF, then, recovered a pen drive containing classified navy presentations relating to procurements from the residence of Wing Commander SL Surve. The pen drive contained information about India's naval and maritime plans for the next 20 years. The navy was informed, who then traced the leak to the Maritime Operations Centre of the Directorate of Naval Operations in Delhi.

Three war room officers were implicated in the leak -- Commander Vijendra Rana of the Marine Commando Force, and navigation and operations specialists Commander Vinod Kumar Jha and Captain Kashyap Kumar. All three officers were sacked without a trial.

In July 2005, the Navy searched the home of Rana and took away his computer containing classified files. It was found that the sensitive information had found its way into the hands of arms dealers and middlemen, including retired naval officers Ravi Shankaran and Kulbhushan Prashar, and arms dealer Abhishek Verma.

In 2006, the CBI stepped in and filed a chargesheet naming Shankaran, Prashar and Verma. Prashar was arrested in 2006, as he arrived in Delhi from London. Along with him, the CBI also arrested Jha, Rana, Verma and Surve.

Upon questioning Prashar revealed that he had met Shankaran in London, which led to the CBI cancelling the latter's passport and issuing a red corner notice against him. Giving the agencies a long chase, Shankaran finally gave himself up in April 2010. However, till date, Shankaran has not been extradited from the UK.

Two former naval officers Rathore and Kalra were named by in a second chargesheet filed by the agency in February 2007. Kalra was Deputy General Manager (Customer Services) in the Bangalore-based Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) and allegedly passed on confidential documents to his course mate Captain Rathore who was in naval procurements in 2005 and who, allegedly passed those documents on to Lt Prashar.

Both Rathore and Kalra were accused of leaking military secrets under the Official Secrets Act and under the Indian Penal Code in charges framed by the CBI in 2014.

The hearing in the main war room leak case, meanwhile, continues. The case is currently at the stage of hearing of evidence. Late last year, the CBI closed the case against former navy captain Kashyap Kumar as nothing was found against him. Kumar had been dismissed from service in October 2005 without a court-martial.