CBI issued notice on petition by retired naval officials (Second Lead)

Monday, February 14, 2011

NEW DELHI - The Supreme Court Monday issued notice to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on petitions by two retired naval officials seeking access to secret documents being relied upon against them in a case under the Official Secrets Act.

The apex court bench of Justice Markandey Katju and Justice Gyan Sudha Misra issued notice after it was told that under the law it was incumbent upon the prosecution to make available all the documents and statements to the accused - Commander (retd) Jarnail Singh Karla and Lt. Commander (retd.) Salam Singh Rathore - that it was relying upon to buttress its case.

The apex court also issued notice to the investigating agency on the petitioner’s plea seeking stay of the trial court proceedings till the petition before it (apex court) challenging the Delhi High Court order was disposed.

The petitioner Kalra and Rathore have challenged the Delhi High Court verdict that had held that the “court cannot compel the State to give those documents which the state considers to be confidential and the disclosure of which was prejudicial to the interest of the state”.

The high court had held that the “accused at the end of the trial can argue how the non disclosure of the documents resulted in the miscarriage of justice, if any, and convince the trial court about his stand but cannot insist that the copies of the secret documents must be supplied to them”.

As the counsel for the petitioner Salam Singh Rathore told the court that the high court had erred in arriving at the conclusion that the accused will have to advance their defence without access to confidential documents, Justice Misra wondered as to why relied upon documents were not being made available to the accused. At this Justice Katju said the documents under contention were covered under the Official Secrets Act.

The instant case is rooted in Naval War Room leak case. In the course of the probe in the Naval War Room leak case, one Manish Kumar Chaudhary told CBI that Salam Singh Rathore was in contact with Kulbhushan Parashar - the main accused in Naval war room leak case.

Subsequently, the investigating agency found that the recovery of alleged incriminating documents from the residences of Kalra and Rathore were in no way linked to the Naval War Room leak case and the same was de-linked. The CBI told this to the high court in its revision petition in 2007.

The apex court has given the investigating agency four weeks time to respond to its notice.

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