This procedural error is bound to raise questions among the offices concerned in the North Block and South Block.


New Delhi: Four individuals, including a serving naval officer, who were arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the first week of September for their alleged role in leaking and sharing confidential Defence ministry related information were granted bail by a Special CBI court on 17 November after the CBI filed an incomplete charge-sheet and failed to intimate the court that the inquiry against the accused was being also done under the Official Secrets Act (OSA).

This procedural error by the agency is bound to raise questions among the offices concerned in the North Block and South Block, as the case affects multiple ministries. Official sources claim that there are multiple officers involved in the allegation of cash for sensitive documents. The CBI, despite being made aware by the Indian Navy on two occasions, 14 and 19 October, that the documents recovered from the accused were of confidential nature and hence were covered under the provision of OSA, somehow failed to mention this in its charge sheet, nor did it file a separate FIR in the case.

This particular point has also been mentioned by the judge while allowing the bail. In its first charge sheet in the case, filed on 2 November, the agency invoked 120 (B) of the IPC, (conspiracy) and multiple sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Similarly, in its second charge-sheet, filed on the same day, OSA was again not invoked. The CBI, while arguing in the court to deny the bail to the accused, told the court that it had written to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) seeking permission to invoke OSA against the accused, a process which was pending.  As per law, an accused becomes eligible for default bail if there is no charge-sheet filed in the case or the filed charge-sheet is “incomplete”, as happened in the present case.

“The charge-sheet filed before the court is incomplete in as much as there is no mention regarding the investigation being carried out under the Official Secrets Act, though the same was being carried out in this case itself. The charge sheet thus, is incomplete for the purposes of section 167(2) of CrPC (default bail),” Special Judge Anuradha Shukla Bhardwaj said while delivering the order or granting bail to retired naval commanders Satwinder Jeet Singh and Randeep Singh, serving naval officer Ajit Kumar Pandey and a private individual T.P Shastry, who is Executive Director  with a Hyderabad based company, Allen Reinforced Plastics Private Limited (ARPPL).

“At no point did the CBI inform the court that an investigation under the Official Secrets Act has also been taken up,” the bail order reads. The CBI had on different dates in September, arrested six people in the case. Apart from these four, the other two were N.B. Rao and K. Chandrashekar who are directors at ARPPL. The court while giving bail, stated that the “limitation for filing the charge sheet for offences committed under OSA is 60 days and not 90 days as was wrongly mentioned in the reply of the prosecution (CBI)”. The court also stated that while CBI had laid a lot of stress on the fact that the offences against the accused were of very serious nature, that law does not permit the court to consider the gravity of offence while deciding bail as the charge sheet was “incomplete”. The bail order cited multiple Supreme Court and High court judgments, while stating that it was  “incumbent upon the CBI” to have filed its charge sheets within 60 days, while stating that the investigation on its part was complete and that it had written to the ministry concerned for filing a complaint under the relevant sections. As per official sources, one of the accused, Satwinder Jeet Singh, who was working in the Directorate of Submarine Procurement (DSMAQ), provided regular sensitive information to Randeep Singh before Satwinder opted for voluntary retirement on 31 July, according to the officers investigating the case. No response was shared by the CBI on the email sent by The Sunday Guardian.