Additional Sessions Judge DharmenderRana of Patiala House Court (Delhi) dismissed the bail application of freelance journalist Rajeev Sharma, arrested in an espionage case under the Official Secrets Act, 1923.
The bail was denied on the ground that sufficiently grave and incriminating material was available on record against him and the Court found that the allegations against him were well founded.The Delhi Police Special Cell had arrested Sharma under the Official Secrets Act, 1923 (OSA), alleging that he possessed classified defence-related documents.
Delhi police officials had also stated that the journalist was arrested for passing sensitive information to Chinese intelligence.
It was submitted by the Counsel of Journalist Rajeev Sharma in Espionage Case that the documents in question are neither secret nor classified. It was submitted that there is a well-established procedure to declare the documents as secret or classified. It was submitted that in violation of the said procedure, the documents in question cannot be claimed to be secret.
It was further submitted for Journalist Rajeev Sharma in Espionage Case that merely because the applicant/accused is an accredited journalist, he is not entitled to enter the Defence Ministry. It was submitted that there is a very strict and elaborate procedure to enter the Defence Ministry and nobody can enter the Ministry without undergoing the strict procedure for entry.
It was further submitted that arrest of the applicant/accused in the instant matter is pre-mature and the police should have made a thorough probe and after contacting the defence ministry should have apprehended the applicant, in case, if the police comes in possession of some incriminating material against the applicant/accused.
It was submitted for Journalist Rajeev Sharma in Espionage Case that no offence u/s 3/4/5 of Official Secrets Act is attracted in the instant case and that the applicant/accused is in Judicial Custody for past 34 days and investigation qua him is already complete. It was thus prayed that applicant/accused may be released on bail.
On the contrary to Journalist Rajeev Sharma in Espionage Case, Addl. PP argued that applicant/accused is having links with foreign intelligence officer and has been receiving funds from his handler through illegal means and Western Union money transfers the platform for conveying sensitive information, having bearing on national security and foreign relations, to his handler based abroad through electronic means.
The Court disagreed with the defence counsel’s argument for Journalist Rajeev Sharma in Espionage Case that in order to attract the provisions under the Official Secrets Act, the documents in question must be necessarily secret or classified.
The Court also said,
“Even if it is presumed for the sake of arguments that the impugned documents were not found to be ‘Classified Documents’ or were collected from any open source that does not take the case out of the purview of the OS Act.” The Court was satisfied that there is sufficiently grave and incriminating material available on record against the applicant/accused.
Upon a perusal of the telegraph chat, statement of witnesses recorded under Section 164 Cr.P.C., information retrieved from the Email account of the applicant accused and the nature of documents seized from the possession of the accused, the Court was of the considered opinion for Journalist Rajeev Sharma in Espionage Case that the allegations against the applicant accused are well-founded.
The Court said,
“Recovery of the sensitive documents viewed against receipt of money by the applicant/accused from tainted sources and his relationship with the foreign agents goes a long way against the plea of his innocence.”
Further, the Court also observed that from the conduct of the family members of the applicant accused, it was evident that they are attempting to influence the witnesses.
“Such an approach is really a cause of serious concern“, noted the Court.
Considering the seriousness of allegations, the enormity of charge and the crucial juncture of the pending investigation, the Court was of the opinion that Journalist Rajeev Sharma in Espionage Case does not deserve the indulgence of the court and his bail application is bereft of merits.
The application was dismissed and was disposed of accordingly.