RTI chief seeks report on naval officer jailed for spying

July 16th, 2008 - 9:03 pm ICT by IANS  


New Delhi, July 16 (IANS) India’s RTI chief has asked the defence ministry for the enquiry report on the basis of which a naval officer was sacked and jailed for espionage and who has now sought the grounds for his incarceration. “The applicant (Vijender Rana) had asked for the board enquiry report and board enquiry proceedings. I heard what he had to say,” Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Wajahat Habibullah told IANS.

Habibullah, who heads the Central Information Commission that administers the Right to Information (RTI) act, was speaking after he met Rana in the Tihar Jail here. This is the first time the CIC had visited the prison.

“However, (an official of) the appellate authority (the defence ministry) was not present on the occasion. The ministry been directed to provide us the board enquiry report for inspection,” Habibullah said.

Rana, a sacked Indian Navy commander who has been jailed under the Official Secrets Act, is one of the five accused in a case relating to the leak of classified information from the Naval War Room here.

“We have asked for the board enquiry report to ascertain whether it can be given to Rana or not as the appellate authority has refused to give it to him citing national security concerns,” a commission official said.

“The matter is expected to complete very soon as it concerns the liberty of an individual person,” the official added.

Rana had filed an RTI application last month to get the enquiry report of his case.

“But when he was refused the report, he had approached CIC,” a Tihar jail official said.

Besides Rana, the other accused are Ravi Shankaran, a relative of former Indian Navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash; retired naval Commander Kulbushan Parashar and sacked naval Commander V.K. Jha, as also retired Indian Air Force (IAF) Wing Commander S.L. Surve.

An Interpol Red Corner lookout notice has been issued against Shankaran, who has been declared a proclaimed offender.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has already filed a charge sheet against the five accused.

According to the CBI, the accused had leaked 7,000 pages of classified defence information that had a direct bearing on national security.

The CBI registered the case March 20, 2006, on a reference from the defence ministry and after scrutiny of the inquiry held by the IAF against Surve and the board of inquiry conducted by the Indian Navy.

The CBI claimed in its 250-page charge sheet that the accused entered into a criminal conspiracy for obtaining and collecting information related to defence matters that was calculated to be or might be or was intended to be useful to the enemy or which related to a matter the disclosure of which, to unauthorised persons, was prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India and the security of the state.

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