A Delhi court has dismissed the default bail plea by journalist Rajeev Sharma, accused of espionage under the Official Secrets Act. He was arrested along with a Chinese national and one other accused in September by Delhi Police for allegedly passing sensitive information to Chinese intelligence.
Metropolitan Magistrate Vasundhara Chhaunkar on November 16, while rejecting the plea stated that, “considering the nature of extensive investigation required in such serious offences, court has no hesitation in holding that the right of default bail has not yet accrued in favour of the accused as the punishment under Section 3 of the Official Secret Act will squarely be covered by Section 167 (2)(a)(i) where the maximum period of custody will be 90 days and not 60 days.”
The court also noted that, “the object of the Official Act should also be kept in mind which is National Security, where the actions which involve helping an enemy State against India are strongly condemned.”
The application of Rajeev Sharma was moved by his counsels, senior advocate Adish C Aggarwala and advocates Aditya Singh and Akshat Goel. Sharma through this default bail application claimed police did not file the chargesheet in specific time frame.
The petition stated that allegations in the FIR even prima facie does not disclose any offence. The documents, which were allegedly seized from the petitioner are general documents and nothing relating to the Official Secret Act.
The plea also submitted that the investigating agency has alleged that material collected against the accused which includes information/ document showing threat to national security and foreign relations. Document/s, if any seized are general documents and do not bear any bearing on national security and foreign relations. Any general document cannot be termed as a threat, even prima facie, without perusal of the said documents. It is strange that the Police has captioned the 79 documents as secret defense documents without confirming it with the Ministry.
No one from the Ministry of Defense has been named in the case. A person guilty unless there are substantial accusations having adequate proof. Any act of fair journalism can’t be scuttled by imposing the draconian provisions of the OSA, the plea said.
The Delhi HC also had recently directed Delhi police to file status report in the case, while hearing his bail petition. Earlier Sharma’s bail plea was dismissed by the trial court.
According to the police, a Chinese woman and her Nepalese associate were also arrested for paying him large amounts of money routed through shell companies. Delhi Police Special Cell said Sharma, a resident of Pitampura in New Delhi, was “found to be in possession of some defence-related classified documents.