NSCS spying case: RTI reply shows cracks in police theory

The Delhi Police had claimed that it had sought the views of the Secretariat on two electronic documents recovered from the computer of one of the accused, retired Navy Commander Mukesh Saini.

A director at NSCS, Vinod Kumar Mall, had opined that possession of the said documents was unauthorised and classified which became the basis of Saini's arrest under the Official Secrets Act.

However, in an RTI reply to Saini, the NSCS has said there are no entries in its records of receiving such communication from Delhi Police. It also said that there are no file notings to show how the opinion was formed by Mall who was then director at the Secretariat.

NSCS is the top intelligence coordination body of the country which is headed by the National Security Advisor.

After the alleged spying case came to light in June 2006, the Special Cell had carried out searches in Saini's house in Delhi Cantonment area on June 11, 2006 and claimed to have found some classified documents, computer hard disc and other material.

The two electronic documents recovered by police from the hard disc seized from Saini's residence were related to a project Secure Information Database Information and minutes of meeting of Indo-US cyber security forum which took place in 2003 of which the officer was coordinator.

According to Special Cell, in two letters 2871 and 2872 dated June 30, 2006 -- a day before the arrest of Saini -- it sought the views of NSCS whether the possession of these documents was authorised.

Mall in his "undated" replies, letter no 1206/Dir (VM)/2006 and 1207/Dir (VM)/2006, to Delhi Police had opined that the documents and its contents are "classified and possession can be termed as unauthorised".

The views of Mall became one of the reasons for slapping charges under OSA against Saini and his arrest.

In an RTI reply to Saini, the NSCS said it has "no entries in NSCS records regarding receipt of letter no 2871 and 2872/ACP/NDR dated June 30, 2006" from Delhi Police.

The reply also suggested that Mall, who is now the Inspector General of Gujarat Police, did not seek views of any senior officials regarding the documents.

"NSCS does no possess any file or documents on the basis of which opinion was formed on the Delhi Police Special Cell letter number 2871 and 2872/ACP/NDR dated June 30, 2006," the Secretariat said in another reply to RTI application of Saini in which he had attached the letters and sought the file notings.

The reply said the undated letters issued by Mall carrying his opinion were sent on June 30, 2006 and were received "personally" by Special Cell inspector Sajjan Singh who was conducting the investigations.

The Tees Hazari Court while granting bail to Saini on May 18 this year had observed, "At one place, the NSCS says it does not possess such file noting in its record to arrive at a decision to implicate the applicant (Saini) in reference to reply to letter number 2871 and 2872 dated June 30, 2006 of, Special Cell Delhi Police."

"On the other side, Vinod Kumar Mall, Director of NSCS, opined in undated letter 1206/Dir(VM)/2006 that the documents and its content are classified and its possession can be termed unauthorised."

The sensational case came to light in June 2006 where Delhi Police claimed that it has arrested three persons -- RAW official Brigadier Ujjal Dasgupta, Saini, who was formerly working with NSCS and S S Paul, a systems analyst with NSCS -- on charges of passing information to 56-year old American official Rosana Minchew.

Saini was taken into custody in July 1, 2006 on charges of violation of Official Secrets Act and criminal conspiracy. Saini, who was an undertrial in Tihar Jail for nearly four years, had filed more than 150 RTI applications with a number of organisations including NSCS, Special Cell of Delhi Police and the Forensic Sciences Laboratory in Chandigarh, among others.

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