Goa Chief Minister and former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar spoke to NewsX-The Sunday Guardian on the Lieutenant Colonel Purohit case. Excerpts:
Q: As a former Defence Minister, what’s your first reaction to Lt Col Purohit’s bail, which has come after nine years of struggle? I am told you have studied Purohit’s documents, his requests, report of inquiry, every communication that has taken place in the Ministry of Defence related to him.
A: I think the relief granted is only in terms of bail. The case is still pending before court. So it’s only the first relief that Purohit got. But when the matter came to me, Purohit’s wife had written to me about documents not being provided to him for defending himself. That time I went through the entire documentation and I found that he was a very productive military intelligence officer, who had collected a lot of information that was useful to the armed forces. Therefore, there was nothing wrong in giving documents to him to defend himself. Of course the confidential and secret part of it was blacked out, but the rest of the documents very clearly proved that he was a military intelligence officer who was required to penetrate himself in various outfits, whether terrorist or others, to gather information. So I said that it should be provided to him.
Q: That’s a huge point you are making, when you say that after having studied his documents and files that he was a productive intelligence officer. Did the earlier UPA government, refrain from defending a productive intelligence officer because until you became the Defence Minister no help was extended to a serving Army lieutenant colonel either from the Army or from the MoD?
A: Yes, that is the history, but I didn’t go into that much. What I could have said, that the Army could have defended him much better had they informed ATS (Anti-Terrorism Squad) that he was an active, in-service military intelligence officer. That fact was probably not properly brought before the ATS, and I don’t know the reasons why. But it should have been done.
Q:. Lt Col Purohit, in an interaction with me claimed that he had collected a lot of information which could have troubled a lot of politicians—he was on the verge of exposing a lot of politicians and lot of anti-national activities, right from terrorists moving in politicians’ red beacon cars, Dawood’s movements in India, fake currency racket. He had collected information on all this and had reported this as well to the concerned authorities. I’m sure you must have come across this information while going through the files.
A: I think this is a matter of fact which is part of this document. Some of them of course could not have been given without blacking them out. But possibly a lot of information was gathered by him, which would have helped if someone was serious about it.
Q: You have said that he was a productive officer. In that case why was he stuck in jail for nine years, without the National Investigating Agency filing a chargesheet against him?
A: I feel it is for the court to decide, but I can say one thing that he was in active service of the Army and the Army should have defended him at that time, by clearly indicating the role he played. This probably was lacking…and that might have been the reason why he got stuck in the lock up for nine years.
Q: This particular case will certainly have a lot of impact on the morale and functioning of intelligence structures in our country.
A: I’ll not go into the theory part of it but I can say that if the Army doesn’t protect its military intelligence officers nobody will come forward to stake his life and career for gathering intelligence, because intelligence gathering in the armed forces has to be getting involved in penetrating various organizations—terror and militant outfits—to gather information. You are risking your life and if you don’t get even the basic protection required it can cause a problem. Proper care needs to be taken in such matters and we should avoid politics as far as military intelligence is concerned.
Q: Sir, do you feel that justice has been delayed in this case when he was not granted bail for nine years?
A: I was all the time getting feedback from serving as well as retired officers that gross injustice was being done against Lt Col Purohit. That was the feeling I got even in Goa after becoming Chief Minister, when I met some retired officers. They also expressed the same thing and probably there was unanimity in providing him proper protection, which is of course legal protection. The case can continue, the bail does not mean that the total case has been decided. Let the case continue, but at least bail was minimum, that could have happened.
Q. As a former Defence Minister what would be your advice to the Army now onwards?
A: I think the Army should bring out the truth before the court, maybe in camera if required. That should be adequate to give him enough defence argument.
Q. It appears that Purohit’s case was just not a Malegaon blast case, or just an Army intelligence related case. There was a touch of politics involved in it.
A: No, I will just convey that we should try and not bring the armed forces and its intelligence into controversies and too much discussion. These are very secretive operations and they need to be given the secrecy they deserve.