Monday, October 2, 2023

Delhi High Court rejects VK Singh plea against CBI FIR on publication of classified information about RAW

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The High Court of Delhi has rejected a petition filed by Major General (retired) V.K. Singh, which sought quashing of an FIR registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against him, alleging that the retired Armyman had published some classified and secret information about the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) in his book in 2007.

Singh, who retired from service in 2000, had published a book titled ‘India’s External Intelligence – Secrets of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW)’ in June 2007.

B. Bhattacharjee, Deputy Secretary, Government of India, Cabinet Secretariat with CBI, had filed a complaint against Singh and another individual under the Officials Secrets Act, 1923. 

Following the complaint, CBI filed an FIR against Singh on September 20, 2007, alleging that he disclosed the names of the officers, location of various places and recommendations made by the GOM in his book. 

A complaint and police report were filed before the trial court in 2008. 

The Single-Judge Bench of Justice Mukta Gupta observed on Wednesday that it would be a matter of trial after the witnesses were examined to see whether the revelations in the book were likely to affect the sovereignty and integrity of India or the security of the state.

The High Court noted that the petitioner himself was of the opinion that similar revelations by two other authors and publishers amounted to an offence under the Official Secrets Act and thus filed a complaint, wherein cognisance was taken by the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM), though on a challenge before this Court, the same was set aside as the complaint was not filed by the competent authority.

The Single-Judge Bench further said that CBI was within its jurisdiction to register the FIR and investigate offences as the registration of FIR and probe was not being barred in view of the allegations of cognisable offence.

It said even when the offence complained of was triable exclusively by the Court of Sessions, the CMM did not commit any error in the present case by waiting for the report of Police after filing of the complaint by the authorised person and on receipt of the Police report, the complaint case and the Police report were tagged and were required to be proceeded as a case instituted on a Police report in terms of Section 210(2) CrPC.

The Bench, after perusing the complaint and the police report, noted that there was no allegation of recovery of classified documents and that no prosecution for offence of being in possession with classified documents was initiated against Singh.

It said in absence of such an allegation, the book having been published after the retirement of the petitioner, this dissemination of information available to him during the course of his duties, cannot lead to the inference that the offence was performed by the petitioner in discharge of his official duty. 

The Bench further noted that no sanction under Section 197 CrPC was required at the time of taking cognisance and sanction was subsequently taken from the competent authority. 

The High Court granted liberty to the CMM to take cognisance and action against the petitioner, in case it was revealed that the alleged offence was committed in discharge of the official duty.

General (retired) Singh was represented by Advocates Dr. B.K.Subarao, Chander M. Maini, B.K. Wadhwa and Mayank Maini.

Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) Anupam S. Sharma and Advocates Prakarsh Airan, Harpreet Kalsi, Ripudaman Sharma and Abhishek Batra appeared for CBI.

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