The samba spy scandal-a shocking story

Discussion in 'Defence & Strategic Issues' started by ajtr, Mar 28, 2010.

  1. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    The spy who loved MI

    Ex Army gunner Sarwan Dass

    How one man framed over 60 Army men, fooled three Prime Ministers and the entire nation

    By Syed Nazakat /New Delhi, Mumbai and Jammu

    Pakistani women and money proved irresistible for Indian Army gunner Sarwan Dass, who looked every inch the quintessential family man. A soldier who served the country during the 1971 war. A humble man who grazed his cows in the fields while in his village during holidays.

    After the war, Sarwan started crossing the border in Jammu's Samba sector to earn quick money through petty smuggling. Soon, he started spying on his motherland. He gradually became Pakistan Army's Field Intelligence Unit officer Major Akbar Khan's favourite mole in India.

    But in 1975, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) trapped Sarwan using a double agent, who interacted with him, pretending to be a Pakistani spy. The military intelligence (MI) was shocked and humiliated that its intra-system rival, the IB, exposed the involvement of Indian soldiers in espionage.

    The story took an ugly turn.

    Sarwan's arrest and eventual confession set in motion a series of events that led to the arrest of over 60 Army personnel, including bright young officers of the 168 Infantry Brigade and its subordinate units in the Samba sector. At one point, as a senior officer puts it, it seemed Pakistan had managed to plant moles deep inside the Indian Army.

    Three decades later, the Samba spy case is resurfacing—it is listed for hearing on May 31 at the Armed Forces Tribunal in Delhi. With that, many unanswered questions have resurfaced.

    Why were Sarwan and his accomplice, Gunner Aya Singh, punished only for desertion [absence without leave] and not spying?
    Why were they taken back into service and given just minor punishments, compared to those named in their confessions?
    Was there a secret deal between MI officials and these two Pak spies?
    Did Pakistan actually corrupt so many bright officers from one single brigade?
    Or was there something horribly wrong with the whole investigation?

    It was like a vicious cycle. The MI allegedly tortured Sarwan seeking names of others involved in espionage. Broken by torture, he spat out whatever names came to his mind. Then, those named by Sarwan were tortured one by one. They, too, gave random names. And, eventually, all those who were arrested were tortured and made to testify against each other.

    Thus, the whole Samba spy case was allegedly built up on torture, torture and torture.
    Prime Minister Morarji Desai wanted a probe into the mysterious death of Havaldar Ram Swaroop, who was named in the case, in Army custody. But, the Army headquarters convinced Desai that Swaroop was a spy, and he was subjected to third degree torture for the “sake of national security”. Sarwan's confessional statements formed a major part of the briefing to Desai. The case was closed and the postmortem reports disappeared.
    The case again resurfaced during Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi's tenures as Prime Minister. In February 1980, Indira asked then IB chief T.V. Rajeswar to look into the case and report to her. “I sent a detailed report, stating that the entire spy case was doubtful and unsubstantiated. A few days later, she ordered a review of the case by the ministry of defence,” he had told an English daily in 1994.

    In August 1986, when he was Governor of Sikkim, Rajeswar wrote to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who also held the defence portfolio. Said Rajeswar: “I suggested that the Samba case should be looked into afresh....”

    But, the MI used a well-cooked story, thanks to Sarwan, to convince the governments about its version.

    THE WEEK decided to seek more details straight from the horse's mouth. After weeks of hunting, we traced Sarwan, 67, in his remote Chakra village in Jammu. The only other self-confessed spy, Aya Singh, was shot dead near the border in 1986 while trying to sneak into India.

    Sitting outside his home, Sarwan was surprised to see us. “Who brought you here?” he asked anxiously. A journalist was visiting his home for the first time.
    Sarwan hardly interacts with villagers, said his neighbours. His only companion is his wife, Lajwanti, still struggling to understand why he brought so much misery and pain to himself and others. The couple have no children.

    In all these years, Sarwan appeared in public light just once, in Mumbai's magistrate court in October 2001, where he baffled everyone. Sarwan confessed he had falsely implicated innocent Army personnel in the Samba spy case at the behest of senior MI officers, who allegedly were trying to better their service records by claiming to have busted a mythical Pakistani spy ring.

    The Mumbai magistrate ordered his confession be delivered before the Supreme Court where Sarwan is ready to testify that he falsely implicated Army men.

    “I confess that I spied on my country,” he told THE WEEK. Sarwan said he leaked crucial information, including helipad location, location of infantry division, brigade units, names of commanders and commanding officers, locations of bunkers, and details about military exercises and training, to the Pakistanis. He also stole the Army's Orbat—order of battle.
    And the guilt of ruining the lives of innocent soldiers haunts him now: “I am ashamed... because of my mistake, so many lives and families were destroyed.”

    After his arrest, Sarwan initially remained silent in the MI's custody. Even when Aya Singh named Captain S.R. Nagial of Jammu as one of the officers involved in spying, Sarwan refused to testify. Nagial's court martial rejected Aya Singh's statement, as it was full of inconsistencies, and acquitted him.

    Nagial, however, was trapped in another case—the loss of Orbat—and punished with seven years rigorous imprisonment and termination from service. “The officers who were responsible to keep the document safe themselves interrogated and implicated me,” said Nagial. “To me, it was the first indication that there was a deliberate attempt to frame people in the case.”

    The interrogators urged Sarwan to tell them about meetings that had never taken place and people he had never met. “I remained in the custody of the Army from July 1975 to August 1978. After every interrogation, they used to say, 'Unless you don't give us names, you will not be going anywhere.' I thought if I stayed silent, I would spend the rest of my life in the torture cell or they would kill me. I had heard how Swaroop was killed in Army custody. So after two years, I started giving them names of officers and jawans,” he recalled. “I had never seen some of them, yet, I cooked up stories of how I introduced them to Major Khan and how much money they received from Pakistan.”

    Sarwan accused four MI officers—Brigadier T.S. Grewal (then MI deputy director), Brigadier (retd) S.C. Jolly (then major), Captain Sudhir Talwar, and Colonel V.P. Gupta. “They tortured and forced me to implicate other people,” he said.

    In March 1977, Sarwan named gunners Banarasi Lal, Babu Ram and Sriram, Naib Subedar Daulat Ram and his battery commander Captain R.G. Ghalawat. The humiliation of being called a Pakistani agent and the torment of the 14-year rigorous imprisonment pushed Ghalawat into severe depression. He later died of heart attack. One of the charges against Ghalawat was that he helped Sarwan escape from the Army's custody. But Sarwan told THE WEEK he escaped by jumping off a train while being shifted from Babina to Jammu for interrogation, as the guards were asleep.

    “I was undergoing constant torture. I thought why not implicate him [Ghalawat]. He was my commanding officer at Babina, and had been very harsh on me,” says Sarwan. “He once punished Aya Singh and me for watching a late-night movie.”

    Sarwan did not know his statements would have such grave consequences: “We [Aya Singh and he] never thought our fake confessions would lead to the arrest of so many Army personnel. It was so easy to involve people in the case. I could have implicated half the Army.”

    In April 1979, Sarwan dropped another bombshell. He named one of the brightest Indian intelligence officers, Capt. R.S. Rathaur of the 168 Infantry Brigade, who had won special appreciation from Northern Command headquarters for his work. Sarwan told his interrogators that he had collected classified files from Rathaur, and that he had taken the Captain to Major Khan in the 'Kandral post in Pakistan'.

    Sitting in his office in Delhi, Rathaur pointed out on a map that the Kandral post was within Indian territory. “That was their first lie. How come Pakistani soldiers came and met us at our own post and nobody knew about it?” asked Rathaur. “I was forced to confess all nonsense. During interrogation, I was lacerated all over. They would tie weights to my testicles and drag me on the floor by one leg.

    The days continue to haunt him. Even now, on some days, Rathaur cringes as he wakes up in the morning, thinking he is in the interrogation centre. “Sometimes, in the middle of road, I get lost, and I call and ask my wife for directions,” he said.

    During interrogation, Rathaur named 11 Army personnel, including Brigadier Karam Chand, Lt Col Kayastha, Major S.P. Sharma, Captain V.K. Dewan, Captain Sujjan Singh and Captain A.K. Rana.

    Rana completed the vicious cycle started by Sarwan. He was arrested on the charge of leaking classified documents. But, the Army headquarters refused to disclose details about it. “If the documents are already with Pakistan, what is the harm in disclosing the details?” asked Rana.

    Rana's confessional statements, which he said was obtained under torture, involved 27 officers, three JCOs, nine jawans—all, again, from the 168 Infantry Brigade.

    “It is an irony of fate that a few MI officers were able to cook stories so easily and create one of the world's biggest imaginary spy scandals,” said Rana, who was jailed for 10 years. He was further shattered when his daughter died a couple of years after his arrest.
    Sarwan was arrested in 1975, but he named Rathaur and Rana only in 1978. In 2001, the Army told the Supreme Court that Sarwan and Aya Singh had withheld names of certain officers because they threatened Aya Singh that his wife would be killed. But, a judgment dated October 26, 1977, of Jammu's chief judicial magistrate, punctures that claim. It said Aya Singh's wife, Bacho Devi, committed suicide on April 10, 1977.

    Things got murkier with the death of Swaroop in 1978. “After that, there was no going back for the MI,” says Major R.K. Midha, who was Swaroop's commanding officer. “When I refused to testify that Ram Swaroop was a drug addict and that he died because of drug overdose, I, too, was implicated in the case.”

    Midha was removed from service and given seven-year rigorous imprisonment. He accused Jolly and Grewal, who was MI deputy director, for Swaroop's death.

    THE WEEK spoke to Jolly—his first interaction with the media since the case broke. “I had nothing personal against any of these officers. Some of them were my best friends. What I did was genuine investigation.... I am ready to testify against them in any court of law,” said Jolly, who was a major during the interrogation. “There were very senior officers, even major generals, who were in charge of the case.”

    He, however, refused to divulge names and details: “Under the Army Act, I'm forbidden from speaking about certain issues.”

    One of Jolly's colleagues implicated in the case was Major (retd) N.R. Ajwani. “I was not his 'best friend'. But we used to meet at the officer's mess. He just cooked the stories against all of us,” said Ajwani adding that the only mission in his life now was to bring out the truth.

    In 1976, Ajwani was a deputy judge advocate-general posted in the Northern Command HQ. “I was implicated after I refused to accept that gunner Om Prakash's testimony during his trial was voluntary. Also, I was the first judge to adversely comment on the testimonies of two MI officers [Jolly was one among them],” said Ajwani.
    Two months later, he landed in trouble. He was placed in military custody and shifted to Delhi. “That is how I became another Pakistani spy,” said Ajwani, his face creased with dejection.

    Ajwani does not blame Jolly alone. He slams then Army chief General O.P. Malhotra: “Had he just used his common sense, he would have realised how ridiculous it was that Pakistan recruited so many personnel from just one brigade.”
    Former IB deputy chief V.K. Kaul, who was the chief investigator of the Samba case, stated on record that the spy scandal was a hoax. “It was a fake case. I don't want to say anything more on it,”
    he told THE WEEK.

    Former Army vice-chief Lt General (retd) S.K. Sinha, who was MI director just before the scandal broke, did not rule out the possibility that some MI officers cooked up stories for promotions or to settle scores.

    Throughout, there has been sheer confusion about the case. Even successive governments kept silent. The cases got buried in the Army HQs. “I don't know anything about the case. It never reached me,” said General V.P. Malik, who was Army chief for three years from September 1997.

    Punished by the Army and humiliated by the public court of opinion, those accused in the case have almost lost hope. But, the spirit of a soldier keeps them going. “I told them we have to fight this injustice as true soldiers, till our last breath,” says Ajwani. In 2001, he moved Supreme Court to speed up the Delhi court's verdict on the Samba case. The court exonerated Rathaur and Rana, and quashed the Army orders dismissing other officers.

    Ajwani, 73, keeps travelling from Mumbai to Delhi to attend court hearings. “In the last two years alone I have visited [Delhi] 144 times,” he said flipping through his diary. “Our fight is not for compensation. It is not about revenge. It is about proving that we were true Indian Army soldiers,” said Ajwani.

    After a moment of thoughtful silence, he added: “My name is Major Ajwani and I am not a Pakistani agent.”
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2010
  3. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    The Army released me on a secret agreement

    INTERVIEW/Sarwan Dass

    The official version of the Samba case was woven around gunner Sarwan Dass’s confession. He had joined the Indian Army on September 9, 1967. After the 1971 Indo-Pak war, he began spying for Pakistan, and passed on crucial information to Islamabad.
    Following an IB tip-off, Sarwan was arrested in June 1975 by his artillery unit based in Madhya Pradesh. His fake confessions ruined the lives of many bright Indian soldiers.
    Sarwan now regrets his misdeeds. He opens up about the case. Excerpts:

    When did you first visit Pakistan?
    In 1971. I desperately needed some money, so I decided to visit Pakistan for smuggling. But I got arrested in Sialkot and was sent to jail. Two Pakistani officers, Major Akbar Khan and Major Akhtar of Field Intelligence Unit promised to release me, provided I work for them. They offered good money, too. I agreed.

    Who was the first person you took to Pakistan?
    I have taken only one person, Aya Singh. He, too, wanted to make some quick bucks.

    How did the Army come to know about your espionage activities?
    It was 1975. Aya Singh and I had rejoined my unit in Babina in Jhansi after long absence from duty. Both of us were punished—two months rigorous imprisonment. After a couple of months, Khan sent a person to Babina to meet me. He was a civilian from Jammu. He showed me my picture with Major Khan. So, I thought he was our man. Later, I came to know that he was an IB double agent.

    Captain R.G. Ghalawat was charged with helping you escape from the Army's custody?
    That is a fake story. While being shifted from Babina to Jammu, I jumped off the train as the guards were sleeping.

    Then why did you testify against him?
    I was under intense pressure to give names of spies. I thought why not implicate him. He was my commanding officer at Babina and had been very harsh on me. Once he had punished Aya Singh and me, as he spotted us returning after a late-night movie. So, I thought it was my turn to teach him a lesson.

    Ghalawat was given 14 years rigorous imprisonment, and he succumbed to the humiliation of being called a Pak agent.
    I never thought he would be given such harsh punishment. I feel ashamed of myself.

    Who else was working with you for Pakistan?
    Aya Singh and I were the only ones.
  4. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    Angry with the Army

    Who killed Havaldar Ram Swaroop? His widow, Anguri Devi, has been asking the question for three decades now. But no answers are coming forth. On the evening of August 26, 1978, she was in the kitchen of their Haryana home when Military Intelligence personnel took her husband away for interrogation.

    On September 30, his body was found on a road in the Delhi cantonment area with 40 injuries. Swaroop was serving in the 641 field security section of the Army at Red Fort in Delhi when he was arrested on charges of leaking military information to Pakistan from Samba.

    “My world ended with his death,” says Anguri. “I will never send anybody from my family to join the Army.” She was not allowed to see his body before cremation as it was badly injured. “How can a soldier die in such circumstances, and nothing be done?” she asks. “The only thing I want to know is who killed him and why.”

    Anguri remembers Swaroop as an honest, God-fearing man. “He was very sweet,” she says, struggling for words. “I will never accept that he was a Pakistani agent.” The Army's version was that Swaroop was a drug addict. His pension book gives the reason for his death in two words: 'Found dead'.

    Three postmortems were carried out. The first, at the Base Hospital in Delhi, revealed that the injuries caused the death. The Army ordered a second postmortem, which said drug addiction caused his death. The Delhi Police conducted the third one, which merely confirmed the findings of the first.

    The first and third reports were neither made public nor produced in court. The Delhi High Court directed Swaroop's family to approach the National Human Rights Commission for compensation. The Supreme Court said: “It [Ram Swaroop's death] was a fit case for NHRC.” Anguri says the family did not have money and did not approach the NHRC. The NHRC never bothered to take up the case either.
  5. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    The Samba Case, the Indian army's darkest chapter

    "They boasted of 36 methods of torture. My body was lacerated all over. My ears were disfigured. My left hand was paralysed following the insertion of needles under my fingernails; they tore my whiskers, hair by hair, and drove an iron rod up my arse. They would tie weights to my testicles and drag me on the floor by one leg, with one man sitting astride my back."

    -- Captain R S Rathaur one of the prime accused in the Samba spy case about his interrogation by the Indian army.

    "He (Havaldar Ram Swarup) was brought to the interrogation centre on September 24, 1978. The usual third degree methods were allegedly applied and he succumbed to his injuries on October 1. His body was thrown on a road in New Delhi cantonment. The postmortem revealed 44 injury marks including electric burns on the body."

    -- Ved Prakash, a member of the army general court martial that tried the Samba accused, in his book The Samba Spying Scandal.

    They all remember exactly what they were doing when the telephone rang on the night of January 22, 1979. The signals officer had just finished celebrating his daughter's birthday. The G-3 officer had just met his wife and son after a year-and-a-half and was making up for lost time. The commanding officer was just getting into bed after his usual nightcap.

    And then the telephone interrupted them and they were asked to report to office immediately.

    Surprised, but not unduly so, they put on their uniforms and left.

    Next morning, wives of scores of officers were handed over their husbands' caps and belts. And by way of information, a series of lies: "No ma'am, we don't know why your husband has been arrested... we don't know when he will be back, ma'am."

    For weeks no one knew what had happened. But when the news did break, finally, it took the whole country by storm. On the night intervening 22-23 January, 1979, the army had arrested at least 62 -- some say close to a 100 -- of its own men on charges of spying.

    The scale was unprecedented and unimaginable. That the army had found so many spies in its own ranks shook the country. And in the furore that followed, the episode came to be called the Samba spy scandal -- taking its name from the small town, 40 kilometres from Jammu, from where most of the men were arrested.

    Many believed it was a wound that the Indian army would take a long time to heal.

    Eighteen years later, that wound has been reopened.

    After the initial plaudits for the army for breaking such a huge spy ring, doubts began to creep in.

    Could so many men really have been working as spies? Most of them were posted at the 168 infantry brigade at Samba. If the charges were true, almost an entire brigade of the army had been working for Pakistan for five years. Was that plausible? Could an entire brigade have been corrupted?

    Wives of arrested officers had held a dharna before the then defence minister Chaudhary Charan Singh's house in Delhi, complaining their husbands had been victimised and were being tortured. But the army remained tight-lipped on grounds of national security, and more and more people began to find disturbing discrepancies in its actions.

    Havaldar Ram Swarup's tortured body, thrown on the Delhi streets, suddenly held new meaning. Was the army telling the truth?

    This question may have never been answered. The army wasn't saying anything, and for a long time, the judiciary had refused to intervene. Though several officers and their wives had appealed to the Delhi high court for a review, it had held such actions of the army lay outside its purview.

    Some men were sentenced to long years in prison -- seven to 14 -- after an army general court martial found them guilty of spying. Others were dismissed from service under Section 18 of the Army Act which allows for dismissal "at the pleasure of the sovereign."

    Thus, despite numerous indicators that there had been a miscarriage of justice, the army would have got away without having to ever give an explanation. Had not Supreme Court Justice Sunanda Bhandare held in 1994 that Section 18 of the Act could be challenged if prime facie mala fide was established.

    Here, fate intervened. According to one retired officer, in the Indian army's reply to the plaint, an internal note had inadvertently slipped in. The note, from one officer to another, apparently said all attempts should be made to stop the trial because if the case did go to court, the army had no real defence to offer.

    Though the note was later withdrawn, the damage had been done.

    And so, on the 19th of this month, a series of hearings has begun to review the Indian army's charges of spying against many of its men and officers.
  6. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    On the day when Rathaur is said to have crossed over to Pakistan, he was on leave in his village

    It all began in 1975, when two gunners Aya Singh and Sarwan Dass were arrested by the army on the basis of a confidential report by the Intelligence Bureau. These men were first interrogated by IB officers and after it became clear they had been spying for Pakistan, they were handed over to the Military Intelligence. During their interrogation by the IB, the gunners did not implicate any other army personnel.

    Aya Singh and Sarwan Dass were in army custody from July 1975 to August 1978. Throughout this time, they seem to have every now and then come up with a few names.

    Initially, they named some other sepoys and a Captain Nagial as co-conspirators. Nagial was arrested in August 1975. A general court martial was held which found him innocent and he was honourably acquitted. The same sequence of events followed with a Captain Kochar and then Major R S Gahlawat who was arrested in April 1977.

    After Gahlawat was also declared innocent, Aya Singh's GCM was finally held, but surprisingly, not on charges of espionage but for leave without absence. Sarwan Dass was also charged on the same grounds. And both the gunners were awarded seven years in jail and dismissed from service.

    But later that year, events were to take another turn.

    Aya Singh again came up with another name -- this time Captain R S Rathaur's, an intelligence officer who had worked in the Samba region. And despite all the other red herrings he had thrown to the MI, in March 1978, within a month of naming Rathaur, Aya Singh's sentence was terminated and he was reinstated in service.

    On 24 August, 1978, Rathaur was arrested.

    Meanwhile, a similar scene was being enacted with Sarwan Dass. After being sentenced to seven years in jail, he was also reinstated a month after he accused Captain A K Rana of being a spy. In October 1978, Rana was also arrested.

    Rathaur and Rana -- arrested on the basis of dubious sources and self-confessed spies -- were to become the prime accused in the Samba case. And both of them have gone to court saying they were brutally tortured over a long period of time to name other people, some of whom they didn't even know.

    Rana led to 50 other people while Rathaur says he was forced to implicate 12 others -- one of them being the unfortunate Ram Swarup.

    Then, according to Ved Prakash himself, a man who sat in on Rathaur's court martial, several discrepancies were found in the army's case against him. Incensed with the way Rathaur's trial was conducted, he later wrote a book called The Samba Spying Scandal.

    In it, he describes how Rathaur was taken to the Pakistani post Kandral by Aya Singh. But Survey of India reports show that Kandral is an Indian post! On the day when Rathaur is said to have made the crossover, he was on leave in his village -- numerous villagers including government officials had come to testify to this. On another date of the alleged crossover he was being given a farewell in the mess in the presence of at least 20 other officers.
  7. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    Will justice ever be done?

    Ved Prakash also describes how the army refused to bring forward any document that Rathaur may have passed over to Pakistan. Similar discrepancies arose in Rana's trial. To date, it is not known if any GCM ever found out what documents were passed over.

    Then, there were other arrests that seemed vindictive. Captain S R Nagial had been honourably acquitted in the 1975 GCM. But another GCM was called on charges of loss of some documents and he was sentenced to a seven-year jail term. The defence argued Nagial wasn't even responsible for the safekeeping of those documents.

    Major R K Middha had apparently refused to testify that Havaldar Ram Swarup was a drug addict and found himself implicated in the same case. In a writ petition filed in the Delhi high court, Middha also mentioned how he was told that charges against him would be dropped if he implicated some other officers, including a major-general. Middha refused and was removed from service under "pleasure of the sovereign."

    Major N R Ajwani, the deputy adjutant judge advocate-general at the army's northern command, was said to have been implicated when as the judge advocate at gunner Om Prakash's trial, he refused to accept that the latter's testimony was voluntary. Rana named him subsequently as a spy and a GCM was called against him. Though the GCM was finally dissolved, Ajwani was dismissed administratively.

    How much of this is true or not will finally stand to trial now. But if indeed as a former major-general said on the condition that he not be named, "the Samba spy case was the grossest miscarriage of justice I have ever seen," then there are other disturbing questions that need to be answered.

    If most of these men were indeed innocent, who, if anyone, was guilty? Already there are many unanswered questions. Why were Aya Singh and Sarwan Dass charged for leave without absence instead of espionage? Why were they reinstated?

    Aya Singh was arrested again by the counter-intelligence wing of the J&K police, entering India from the Pak border in 1983. He was released on bail in 1986, arrested again in July 1987, released in 1989 and finally shot dead while trying to cross the border in December 1990. So what was he -- a Pakistani spy, a double agent or a Pak spy working for some seniors in the Indian army?

    Besides, how was it that in the long list of accused there was not a single officer above the rank of major? One brigadier and a few lieutenant colonels who were picked up were subsequently released. Is it that spying comes easier to the lower ranks or was someone protecting the big fish?

    Rathaur has directly accused (then Brigadier) T S Grewal, who was then the deputy director of military intelligence, of masterminding the whole affair and trying to divert attention from others who were really Pak spies. Shouldn't such a major accusation be investigated?

    The biggest bombshell came when in 1994, a month after Justice Sunanda Bhandare's judgement, Sarwan Dass, the second half of the puzzle, said in a newspaper interview that he had implicated other officers and men under severe torture.

    So what is the truth? Were there in fact a hundred spies, all operating in Samba at the same time? If not, did the Indian army just err in what it did, or was there a conspiracy? In either event, it was an unprecedented breach of national security. Almost two decades later, can we hope to get some answers?
  8. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    Justice gone awry

    The truth about the monumental fraud and grave failure of the military justice system involved in the Samba spy scandal needs to be unravelled without delay.

    The first of a two-part article
    THE judgment pronounced on December 21, 2000 by Justices K. Ramamoorthy and Devinder Gupta of the Delhi High Court in the Samba spy case created a stir - as it was bound to. But the ripples subsided soon and those who perpetrated one of the gravest wrong s in the annals of military justice in the democratic world might go scot-free if the matter is not pursued further. The ones who are charged by the victims with perpetrating the wrongs, whom the court exonerated, might well be innocent. But they owe a d uty to account to the nation. Silence is not an option when there is a duty to speak. That applies very much to the Government of India as well. On December 22, an Army spokesman told the Press Trust of India: "We are studying the judgment and any action would be contemplated after carefully going through it." How much time do they need for this exercise?

    Part of an Indian Army contingent at the Republic Day parade.

    Incidentally, this judgment was reserved on November 11, 1997 and was delivered three years later and only after one of the appellants, Major N. R. Ajwani, moved the Supreme Court to order its delivery. It came before the apex court gave its order .

    BETWEEN August 24, 1978, and January 23, 1979, 50-odd persons who had worked in the 168 Infantry Brigade and its subordinate units at Samba, 40 km from Jammu on the international border, were arrested on charges of spying for Pakistan at the instance of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (MI). Its investigations involved practically the whole officer cadre of the Brigade. Those arrested included a Brigadier, three Lieutenant Colonels and a number of Majors, Captains, Junior Commissioned Officers ( JCOs), Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) and personnel of other ranks, plus 11 civilians who had worked in the Samba sector. They were all taken into custody at the instance of two self-confessed Pakistani spies who worked as gunners in the Indian Army - Sarwan Dass and Aya Singh. In December 1994, Sarwan Dass swore an affidavit and appeared at a press conference to admit that he had falsely implicated the men. In December 1990, Aya Singh was shot - while crossing the India-Pakistan border. These victims received justice only in December 2000, and not fully either.

    Sarwan Dass first went to Pakistan in February 1971. He began working for its Army's Field Intelligence Unit at Sialkot on a regular basis from February 1974. His "handler" there was Major Akbar Khan. He persuaded some colleagues to join in the sport. Ay a Singh was one of them. Sarwan Dass was arrested for the first time in June 1975 by his artillery unit, which was then located in Madhya Pradesh, on suspicion of espionage. This followed reports from the Intelligence Bureau (I.B.) from Samba. He jumped off the running train at Jalandhar, while being taken to Pathankot, on July 2, 1975, went over to Pakistan and stayed in Sialkot. On February 10, 1976, he was arrested after his return. The police handed him over to the MI on April 10, 1976 and he remain ed in its custody until July 1978.

    One vital safeguard that military law provides is the prompt recording of the summary of evidence by the Commanding Officer once he detects an offence and a court of inquiry confirms suspicion. The charge-sheet and a general court martial (GCM) fo llow.

    Sarwan Dass is tried; not for espionage but for absence without leave, and the court martial sentences him in August 1978 to seven years' rigorous imprisonment and dismissal from the Army. On March 17, 1979 he is reinstated. By then, while in custody, he had implicated two prime victims - Captain Ranbir Singh Rathaur and Captain A. K. Rana. Rathaur was arrested on August 24, 1978 and Rana on October 27, 1978.

    Aya Singh was arrested by the I.B. while crossing into India in July 1975 and, like Sarwan Dass, was handed over to the MI. Like him, again, he is tried only for absence without leave, not for espionage, and sentenced to seven years' rigorous imprisonmen t and dismissal. But only to be reinstated in March 1978, with remission of the sentence, soon after he implicated Rathaur and Rana. The rake's progress is interesting - discharged from the Army in 1983; arrested by the Jammu and Kashmir Police in Februa ry 1985 as he tried to enter India from Pakistan; released on bail in 1986; escaped to Pakistan in January 1987; re-arrested in India, as PTI reported, on July 2, 1987; sentenced to two years' imprisonment; and shot dead in December 1990 - while crossing the border. The Illustrated Weekly of India (June 17, 1990) reported: "Investigations reveal that Aya Singh, who was considered to be close to a former Forest Minister in the erstwhile Farooq Abdullah Cabinet, continued to be a Pakistani informer . Aya Singh, who has been working for the terrorists in Punjab, as revealed by letters intercepted by the police, was re-arrested in July 1987 and it is on record that to date Military Intelligence has not interrogated him. About Aya Singh, R. Gop al, Capt. Rathaur's lawyer, points out: 'Would the Pakistanis trust him if he had really been responsible for busting a major Pakistani spy ring as his testimony in the Samba case claimed?"

    It is on the testimony of these two sordid characters that many lives were blighted by the MI. Confessions by their victims were extracted by torture which claimed the life of Havaldar Ram Swaroop. Personnel of courts martial shut their eyes as me n were produced before them in shackles, broken in spirit with evidence of torture screaming from their person. Only one man had the moral courage to stand up. He was Lt. Col. Ved Parkash who saw action in four wars, served as General Staff Officer in th e Intelligence Directorate at Army Headquarters, and was a member of the GCM which, over his protests, awarded 14 years' rigorous imprisonment to Capt. Rana. His is by far the most informative book on the subject with a detailed description of the Army s et-up as it operated (The Samba Spying Scandal; Trishul Publications, Noida; Rs. 230). The writer is indebted to this work. Rathaur has written his memoir (The Price of Loyalty; Siddharth Publications, New Delhi; Rs. 400). One must not forg et B.M. Sinha's pioneering work The Samba Spying Case (Vikas; 1981).

    Rathaur served as intelligence officer from February 13, 1974 to January 10, 1976 and was succeeded by Rana. He had rendered yeoman service and reported the 11 Pak. Corps. The prosecution case defied belief. Sarwan Dass was asked by his handler Major Akb ar Khan to bring along two Indian Army officers on January 10 or 11, 1976 which, he claimed, he did. That very night, however, Rathaur was being "dined out" and Rana "dined in" at the Officers' Mess, Samba. Another charge was that earlier, "in the last w eek of July or first week of August 1974", Rathaur was lured away, "was made drunk", put in a taxi, taken to Palota (in India) where Aya Singh slipped away, contacted the Pakistan Rangers Border Post at Gandial and informed them of Rathaur's presence at Palota. They captured Rathaur as well as Capt. Sewa Ram Nagial. Aya Singh, his relative, claimed to have won over Nagial and taken him to Major Khan earlier on July 17, 1974 - that is, after entering Indian territory at Patole. Rathaur was recruited as a n agent by Khan.

    But it was not until March 28, 1978, nearly four years later, that Aya Singh disclosed this to Capt. Sudhir Talwar of the MI. As it happened, Rathaur had gone on duty to Yol in Himachal Pradesh on July 14, 1974 and proceeded from there on home leave to h is village in that State on July 17 until August 14. He had incontrovertible proof of his presence there, in the form of records of the Electricity Board and self-drawn cheques on the local bank.

    Rathaur was arrested on August 24, 1978 and tortured mercilessly. "I was forced to write 11 or 12 statements, implicating many others besides Captain Rana." Rana was arrested on October 27, 1978. Rathaur was convicted by a court martial on August 2, 1979 and sentenced to 14 years' rigorous imprisonment on the testimony of those two Pakistani spies and his own "confession". The Chief of the Army Staff, Gen. O.P. Malhotra, confirmed the sentence on February 16, 1980. He was released from prison only in Ma y 1989 and received a letter from the authorities granting 50 per cent of service gratuity and death-cum-retirement gratuity. Who induced this pang of conscience will be brought out shortly.

    Rathaur had been "made to confront" Rana in prison on November 3, 1978 and forced to dictate a statement to him. "It was all a concoction, manufactured by the MI Directorate." Rana also received "the treatment" and implicated 51 others. They were arreste d in a midnight swoop on January 22-23, 1979. The National Herald reported it on April 10, 1979. The Samba spy case was now out in the open.

    TWO interesting features of the scandal deserve note. One is that both Sarwan Dass and Aya Singh were arrested on the basis of reports by officials of the I.B. in the Samba area and were interrogated initially by the I.B. Lt. Col. Ved Parkash records: "T hey disclosed the names of some of their civilian collaborators from the local area. But they did not implicate any Army personnel in their nefarious activities, during their interrogation by the I.B. officials. On completion of their interrogatio n and other formalities, the I.B. handed over Aya Singh and Sarwan Dass, to the Army authorities, MI officials to be specific, for necessary action as deemed fit." It was to the MI that they 'disclosed' the names of Rathaur and Rana - a few years late r and immediately before or after their sentence was remitted.

    Secondly, following the arrest of 53 Army officers in India on January 22-23, 1979, Pakistan Military Intelligence arrested 107 Army officers on charges of spying for India.

    Thanks to Ved Parkash's book, we have a full, authoritative account of the fraud that was Rana's court martial. Rana was not produced as prosecution witness at Rathaur's trial. But Rathaur gave evidence for the defence at Rana's trial on August 23 and 25 , 1980, in fetters and handcuffs when he was in Tihar Jail.

    Lt. Col. Ved Parkash was a "senior member" of the court martial next only to the presiding officer, a Brigadier in seniority. The other three were Majors. The GCM assembled on April 24, 1980 and sat for 58 days until September 15. Even before the conveni ng order reached him, one "Brigadier HTH" contacted him and, using an expletive against the "spies", advised Ved Parkash, "Don't let him (Capt. Rana) go scot-free." Rathaur deposed to his own torture and the statements he was forced to make against Rana and others.

    The falsehoods and improbabilities in the prosecution case are glaring. Rana was alleged to have gone all the way from Samba to Sialkot in return for such sums as Rs.1,000 to Rs.3,000 for a trip. "Why does every prosecution witness mouth stereotyped stat ements? Capt. Rana always leaves on his night errands at 7-30 p.m. His jeep is always driven by a driver. That the prosecution accepts; after all, Capt. Rana's jeep is authorised a driver. But not once does the prosecution deem it necessary to produce th e driver before the GCM."

    The prosecution alleged that Rathaur and Rana were met by Pakistani intelligence men at their Kandral post to receive documents from them. Kandral is, in fact, in Indian territory, and pages 1-4 of Sinha's book describe his visit to the village. " It had caused one of the many rows with the presiding officer of the GCM. The author had asked him in one of the closed court deliberations as to why the court could not seek clarification on the issue from the prosecution. The presiding officer had repl ied: "There is nothing to clarify. We must accept it is in Pakistan. In any case, it is the normal tactics of the Defence to involve the court in such minor and even irrelevant things... Moreover, all such ch border hamlets will not be depicted on the ma p...."

    Apparently, forced to confess, Rathaur mentioned Kandral. But the MI ought to have known better. However, at the court martial Rathaur said it was an Indian post. He had found the prosecution improving its case each time as he spoke the truth. "Since I w as tortured to confess my going across the border, I deliberately chose the night 10/11 January 1976 for the purpose. It was the night I was given official dining-out, along with Maj. Manocha, OC Brigade signal company. This was a fact which could be sub stantiated from the official records. When required, I could prove it false."

    Sarwan Dass subsequently changed the date to "two to three days" before the Lohri (festival) 1976, which always falls on the 13th of January, as he put it. And Sarwan Dass testified that he was at Kandral during his stay in Pakistan. "Through an open win dow" he could also count the exact amount of money Rathaur and Rana received from Major Khan. A grand sum of Rs.44,000 in all for Rathaur from July 1974 to August 1977, according to the prosecution, Parkash records.

    "No particulars about the missing documents, like numbers and dates in case of the letters or file numbers in case of the files, were supplied to the court. In the Army, detailed instructions exist as to how to act if certain secret documents are found m issing. A court of inquiry is mandatory to establish the fact of this loss and it has to attribute responsibility to the individual/individuals. We put the following questions to the prosecution witnesses concerned: (a) Was a court of inquiry held in th e case of missing documents? (b) What were the details, serial numbers, letter numbers and dates of the missing documents? (c) At what stage was the matter reported to the higher headquarters? (d) What action was taken against the individual/individuals responsible for the lapse?"

    Ved Parkash writes: "To our surprise, the Prosecution refused to answer any of these questions, claiming that the disclosure will jeopardise the national interest. It was a strange and incredible argument. The documents are already in the hands of the en emy. The argument that the disclosure of some specifics, viz., numbers and dates of these documents, will jeopardise the national interest was rather stretching the point. What was worse was that the court martial found itself not only helpless but also a willing tool in the hands of the Prosecution." On such evidence Rana was sentenced to 14 years' rigorous imprisonment.

    Earlier courts martial in 1976 and 1977 had honourably acquitted Captains Nagial and Kochar whom Aya Singh had sought to implicate. Ved Parkash wonders what brought about the change. Neither the I.B. nor the Border Security Force (BSF) believed Rana's st atement in which he had been "forced to name some persons" from these agencies. "The entire story is so simple and uncomplicated in detail that it beats one's imagination. Still it is this story that has been believed, by the Military Courts. About a doz en officers and men were court-martialled and given life sentences in jail and many more were dismissed summarily by the Central Government under the provisions of Section 18 of the Army Act, citing the doctrine of the presidential pleasure, without assi gning any reasons."

    Justice gone awry - II

    THE first legal breakthrough in the Samba spy case came on July 8, 1994, when a full bench of the Delhi High Court held, on the petition of one of the accused, Major N.R. Ajwani, that the order of termination of service is justiciable (Vol. 55 (1994) DLT 217). Section 18 of the Army Act says, "every person subject to the Act shall hold office during the pleasure of the President."

    On November 17, 1994 the Supreme Court dismissed the government's special leave petition and ruled: "All that the impugned judgment holds is that an order passed under Section 18 of the Army Act can be challenged on the ground of mala fides. This statement of law is unexceptional. However, it is for the person who challenges it on the ground of mala fides, to make out a prima facie case in that behalf. It is only if he discharges the said burden, that the government is called upon t o show that it is not passed in the mala fide exercise of its powers. While doing so, the government is not precluded from claiming the privilege in respect of the material which may be in its possession and on the basis of which the order is pass ed. The government may also choose to show the material only to the court." ((1996) 9 S.C.C. 406).

    However, rather unusually, the court recorded in para 3 of its order: "The appellants (the Union of India) are permitted to withdraw from the appeal-memo, pp. 221 to 232 which according to the learned Solicitor-General have been annexed to the memo inadv ertently."

    Indian Express revealed on December 28, 1994 what this was about. "A confidential internal note at the highest level of the Indian Army has acknowledged that there is a lack of evidence against some of those court-martialled in the notorious Samba spy case. 'It may be difficult for us to justify our action to the courts,' the advisory note concedes. 'The relevant records, if placed before the courts, would not convince the courts that the decision to terminate the services of the Army officers co ncerned was rational, based upon sound and reliable material and that it did not suffer from mala fides'."

    The note was meant for the Additional Solicitor-General. "In a bizarre mix-up, the confidential note got attached to the copy of the written submission to the court and was presented to the three-member Supreme Court Bench of Justices P.B. Sawant, G.N. R ay, and S.B. Majumdar, hearing the said appeal of the Union government against the decision of the Delhi High Court. Once the blunder was discovered, red-faced lawyers asked the Bench's permission to withdraw the note. The Judges gave their consent and t he note was technically treated as withdrawn, and it was agreed that the opposing sides would not refer to it."

    In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling came a series of disclosures. Indian Express on December 4, 1994 published an article by T.V. Rajeswar, former Director, I.B.. He revealed: 'The Director, Military Intelligence, who was handling the investig ation was reluctant to let the Intelligence Bureau participate in the interrogation of the suspects even though there were clear standing instructions that the IB should be associated in the interrogation of the Army suspects in episonage cases."

    He relented towards the end of 1979. "Eventually a joint team consisting of representatives of IB, RAW and the J&K Police, headed by a IB Deputy Director, looked into the case thoroughly and recorded the evidence. The IB Deputy Director, Mr. V. K. Kaul, was an expert in counter-episonage investigations, (He later headed the Bureau of Police Research and Development in the Home Ministry).

    "The interrogations were carried out in the Delhi Cantonment in the presence of Army officers as designed by the MI Directorate. The team after a thorough job of investigation came to an unanimous conclusion that the case built up by the Army authorities was totally suspect." Yet, the Army continued to proceed against the remaining suspects.

    IN February 1980, when he became Director, I.B., Rajeswar was asked by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to examine a petition by the dependents of the court-martialled Army officers. "After examining the files carefully, I discussed the case at length with t he head of the joint team, Mr. V. K. Kaul, and it was clear to me that there was something very seriously wrong in the case. I sent a detailed report to Mrs. Gandhi stating that the entire spy case was doubtful, unsubstantiated and unreliable."

    The Army opposed a review and she left it at that.

    In 1986, he wrote to Rajiv Gandhi, who ordered a review. Hence Captain Ranbir Singh Rathaur's release and grant of gratuity.

    The Times of India of December 5, 1994 carried a report quoting Sarwan Dass' admission of guilt. "I had not even seen their (Rathaur and A.K. Rana's) faces. I had not even heard their names. I implicated these officers and others because I was for ced to do so."

    The report also quoted V.K. Kaul's remarks: "Why did this huge Army fail to deliver justice to their own men over such long period of time?" Why, indeed?

    As Deputy Director, I.B., V.K. Kaul met Rathaur and found "his ears were swollen up like a ball. He was stammering and he looked dazed. When I asked the Army officials about him they told me that Rathaur is a boxer and he got injured" (The Times of In dia, December 7, 1994).

    Sarwan Dass has given the names, as The Hindustan Times of January 15, 1977 reported. "He was interrogated by the IB Military Intelligence and told them that apart from Aya Singh (a gunner in the Army) no one else was involved in the episonage act ivities. But over a period of two years, while he was in the custody of MI Officers, Sarwan Dass claims in an affidavit signed in December 1984, he was tortured and made to name several others. 'Pursuant to inhuman torture by Capt. Sudhir and Maj. Jolly, I broke down and agreed to write whatever I was asked to... I falsely implicated one Gunner Banarasi Das, Gunner Baburam, Gunner Sriram, N/Sub. Daulat Ram only to satisfy Capt. Sudhir and Maj. Jolly who kept on insisting that I should implicate more and more personnel, Sarwan Dass says in his affidavit."

    On December 6, 1996, the hero of the 1965 war, Lt. Gen. Harbaksh Singh, broke down and wept at a function in New Delhi to release Lt. Col. Ved Parkash's book The Samba Spying Case. "I am shocked and ashamed at the level of degeneration in the Indi an Army which we had raised... Here we have an example of officers being meted out third degree treatment by their own colleagues." V. K. Kaul also spoke on the occasion: "Samba scandal was the most gigantic fraud to have been perpetrated on the nation i n which many Army officers were wrongly convicted for a crime they had not committed." He ridiculed the Army's studied silence despite the revelations (The Pioneer, December 9, 1996).

    Sarwan Dass even appeared at a press conference in New Delhi on December 19, 1994 along with Rathaur and Rana and said that over a three-year period he had been made to implicate officers whom - he had never seen or met, by officials of the MI. He was tr eated well and paid his full salary even during his incarceration (Indian Express, December 20, 1994.)

    TWO other cases deserve note. One concerns Major Ajwani who served as Judge Advocate-General in the Army for 16 years. This refugee from Pakistan was accused of spying for it in the company of Rana. He was at the Samba Brigade HQs to conduct a murder tri al of Army officers during his alleged stay in Pakistan.

    It was pure vendetta. "In July-August 1978, in my capacity as Judge Advocate-General in the Northern Command headquarters, I was conducting a trial of court martial against gunner Om Prakash on charges of espionage. When I refused to help the military in telligence build up the espionage case by refusing to admit Om Prakash's oral confessions."

    He was arrested on January 23, 1979 and detained at Deolali for over a year. When witnesses refused to give false evidence against him, the GCM was dissolved; he was sacked; but the order was altered to one of termination of services. He received his vin dication, like others, only on December 21, 2000.

    So did Major R. K. Midha. His crime was to have refused to cooperate in the disposal of the corpse of Havildar Ram Swaroop. On April 16, 1997, Justices Mahinder Narain and Lokeshwar Prasad of the Delhi High Court directed the Army to produce medical reco rds of the Havildar's alleged custodial death in October 1978. It was on a petition by his widow Angoori Devi, assisted by Major Ajwani, who has rendered yeoman service to fellow victims, courageously and generously.

    Major Midha in his sworn affidavit alleged: "I say that the said Havildar was murdered by Major (S.C.) Jolly and Captain Sudhir (Talwar) and their associates while they were interrogating him. The said Major Jolly and Capt. Sudhir are the same officers w ho interrogated (and tortured) all those who were proceeded against in Samba spy case." The affidavit said, "I (Major Midha) as the Commanding Officer of the deceased told the court of inquiry (on the death of the Havildar) that death had occurred before the body reached the base hospital and that it had 39 injuries." However, the findings of the court of inquiry, where Maj. Midha produced the letter of the doctor stating about the injuries, were rejected by the military intelligence and a fresh court o f inquiry was instituted.

    Maj. Midha alleged that Brigadier T.S. Grewal asked him to tell the second court of inquiry that the Havildar was a drug addict, but he refused to oblige the senior official and told the court of inquiry that Havildar Ram Swaroop was not a drug addict at all. Consequently, he said, the second court of inquiry was dissolved and a third one was instituted. This time he was allegedly threatened by one Col. Solanki to tell the court of inquiry that the death of Havildar Ram Swaroop was due to drug addiction , or face the consequences. On his refusal to do so, Maj. Midha said in his affidavit that he was falsely implicated in the Samba spy case. Angoori Devi's petition is due to be heard by the Delhi High Court in March 2001.

    The court's judgment of December 21, 2000 was concerned with the limited issue of whether the appellants had proved mala fides. On January 11, 1980, 11 of the Samba accused were dismissed from service without a trial. The pattern in case after cas e was the same - court martial's dissolution; dismissal order rescinded and altered to termination of service. The cases were, fortunately, heard together - Rathaur's, Rana's, Ajwani's, Midha's and others'. The court remarked: "But for the fact, by sheer coincidence all the cases came to be argued before us we would in the normal course of events would not have been inclined to consider the case put forth on behalf of the officers, in case finality had been reached on an adjudication by this court on fa cts after the perusal of the records maintained by the respondents in respect of the concerned officers. That has not been done. Not only now, on the earlier occasions also, the respondents had not taken care, totally ignoring their constitutional duty t o this court, to produce the relevant records."

    The court's censures were appropriately strong. "The respondents think that they are the law unto themselves and whatever they say must be accepted as the last word in the matter. The whole of the bundle of facts in the instant batch of cases would appea r to be a pot boiler to project the image of the Military Intelligence Directorate, leaving us at the end with a cliff hanger without any iota of materials to form an opinion about the involvement of the appellants and the petitioners."

    It said: "Some of the officers in the Intelligence Directorate at the relevant time apparently thought that they could manipulate the needle of suspicion against any of the officers they had chosen to make complaint of espionage had miserably failed to f ollow the law.... We are of the view that the respondents have failed miserably to show that they had acted in accordance with law in initiating proceedings against the officers, holding GCMs against the officers, concluding it in two cases only and conv icting them and that too without any shred of evidence. In other cases, on realising that they were likely to be acquitted like the GCMs were dissolved and proceedings were dropped. Without any basis, without any reason and without assigning any causes t he services of the officers were dispensed with. We are clearly of the view that all the proceedings taken against the officers are completely void in law and all the proceedings are liable to be annulled."

    The orders of termination and the sentences by the two GCMs were set aside. The Union of India and the Chief of the Army Staff were ordered to "grant consequential reliefs to all the officers including all monetary benefits."

    Speaking to the press in Mumbai on December 28, 2000, Rathaur, Ajwani and Rana called for legal action against Brigadier T. S. Grewal; Lt. Col. R. P. Madan; Major S.C. Jolly; Major P.S. Solanki and Captain Sudhir Talwar who "made life hell for 53 innocen t persons" (The Times of India, December 29. 2000).

    These officials directly interacted with the Samba case accused. At the apex were two men of high repute - Chief of the Army Staff General O. P. Malhotra (June 1978-May 1981) and Lt. Gen. H.N. Kaul, DMI. No one questions their personal integrity. Obvious ly, they relied on subordinates, uncritically, who convinced them that it is Pakistani spies they were handling. The danger to the rule of law comes from men of integrity who neglect their duty by the law for "patriotic" reasons.

    Nothing short of a full inquiry into the conduct of the officials named by the three victims on December 28, 2000 will suffice. They owe a duty to account. Gen. O.P. Malhotra and Lt.Gen. K.N. Kaul owe a duty to speak out. Silence is not an option.
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2010
  9. NSG_Blackcats

    NSG_Blackcats Member of The Month OCTOBER 2009 Senior Member

    Jul 23, 2009
    Likes Received:
    The Samba spy scandal. The question is who made the big blunder? Is it Indian Army or Indian Army Intelligence?

    On December 2000, the honorable Delhi High Court called -
    25 yrs later, Samba spy case is thrown out​

    NEW DELHI, DECEMBER 21: The Delhi High Court today undid what it called "the gross miscarriage of justice'' done by the Army to its officers in the Samba spy scandal which rocked the country in the two decades ago.

    A bench, comprising Justice Devinder Gupta and Justice K. Ramamoorthy, exonerated two former captians, R S Rathaur and A K Rana, who had been court martialled by the Army, and quashed the Army orders dismissing seven other officers.

    In a 111-page judgment delivered by Ramamoorthy, the court ruled that all these nine officers who had been detained for years on the charge of spying for Pakistan were now entitled to all the ``consequential benefits'' since the action taken by the Army against each of them was "void in law.''

    In a scathing indictment of the Army's functioning, the court said that Rathaur and Rana had been convicted in the court martial proceedings ``without a shred of evidence.'' Further, the court martial proceedings against the other seven officers were found to have been dropped midway as they ``were likely to be acquitted'' and instead they were dismissed from service ``without producing relevant record before the concerned authority.''

    The court observed that the court martial proceedings were held only "to give an air of verisimilitude'' and that the Army's orders were "merely camouflage'' and had been passed for ``extraneous reasons.''

    As a result, the Government and the Army "failed miserably'' before the court "to show that they had acted in accordance with law in initiating proceedings against the officers.'' The "four thin files without paging'' produced as evidence by the Army prompted the judges to say "the charge of espionage may be a serious one but that does not absolve the respondents from maintaining the records and showing the same to the court.''

    Though the judiciary generally does not interfere with court martial proceedings, the Delhi high court clarified that it was entitled to annul the proceedings "in case of gross miscarriage of justice.'' It added that it would not have intefered with the action taken in the Samba case" if any material worth mentioning had been found in the files.''

    The Army had contended that there could be no judicial review of its power to terminate the service of any of its personnel without any material on record. The court said: "The whole premise is contrary to the basic structure of the Constitution. If all the documents had been produced and if they would show that the satisfaction was neither reached mala fide nor was it based on any extraneous or irrelevant grounds, we would not go into the question of expediency.'' Meaning, the court would not have interfered with the Army's actions if they were shown to have been taken on relevant considerations.

    Bring the Army under the ambit of the general administrative law, the court said adding that the Military Intelligence Directorate, which had initiated the action against the officers, could not "assume the role of a prosecutor and a judge in its own cause.''

    The seven Army officers whose dismissal has been set aside are: R K Midha, M R Ajwani, S P Sharma (all in the rank of Majors), Arun Sharma, Kulwant Singh, Vijay Kumar Dhawan and J S Yadav (all captains).

    The Military Intelligence Directorate had arrested 52 Army officers and personnel in the Samba case and some of them were, however, let off subsequently without any proceedings.

    Source - The Express
  10. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
    Likes Received:
    Samba spy scandal was one Big blot on the Indian order to wash away its hands and due to inter-intelligence rivalry between MI and IB,army conducted this trial almost 50-odd persons who had worked in the 168 Infantry Brigade and its subordinate units at Samba 40 km from Jammu on the international border, were arrested on charges of spying for Pakistan at the instance of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (MI). Its investigations involved practically the whole officer cadre of the Brigade. Those arrested included a Brigadier, three Lieutenant Colonels and a number of Majors, Captains, Junior Commissioned Officers ( JCOs), Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) and personnel of other ranks, plus 11 civilians who had worked in the Samba sector. They were all taken into custody at the instance of two self-confessed Pakistani spies who worked as gunners in the Indian Army - Sarwan Dass and Aya Singh. In December 1994, Sarwan Dass swore an affidavit and appeared at a press conference to admit that he had falsely implicated the men. In December 1990, Aya Singh was shot - while crossing the India-Pakistan border. The falsely implicated victims received justice only in December 2000, and not fully either.
  11. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
    Likes Received:
    Thats what the A.G Noorani talks about in his two part article "Justice gone awry" in frontline.In a hurry to save there prestige MI and army conducted the inquiry into the case and army's haste is can be seen by implicating almost all officer of the 168th infantary bdg. This destroyed many of the fine officer's lives and creer of indian army and what to say about their family?
  12. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
    Likes Received:
    Samba spy scandal was clear case of inter service officer's rivalry and even after 40 years its still unresolved due to army secrecy act.Another parallel case is of Lt-Gen Avadhesh Prakash in sukana land scam case.
  13. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

    Apr 5, 2009
    Likes Received:
    A shocking story indeed. A big blot on Army functioning for torturing their own men.
  14. ahmedsid

    ahmedsid Top Gun Senior Member

    Feb 21, 2009
    Likes Received:
    Sheeesh!! Man never thought it was THIS BIG!!!! This is a Shame, I really dont know what to say! I cant even say the Guilty should be punished, because who are guilty, who are innocent? You just cant tell in this case! Better close it and say good bye!!!! We dont Need Pakistan to break the spirit of our Army men, these kind of investigations will do just the same! Shame, Shame Indeed! :(
  15. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
    Likes Received:
    whole samba scandal is murkier and shrouded in secrecy and conspiracies of MI.We still dont know if ever such scandal was there in which 52 officers of the same infantry bdg and its sister units were spying for pakistani's.Samba spy scandal has parallel to ketchup colonel case.It was created out off thin air by MI.
  16. Known_Unknown

    Known_Unknown Devil's Advocate Stars and Ambassadors

    Apr 21, 2009
    Likes Received:
    The problem is that we assume that someone is guilty just because he has been accused by the concerned authorities. Does anyone know what happened to the case of Major Shrikant Purohit? He was maligned as a terrorist, but more than 2 years after his arrest, he is still in custody. Isn't there a time limit for how long someone should be behind bars awaiting trial? Aren't all accused entitled to a speedy trial under Indian laws?
  17. NSG_Blackcats

    NSG_Blackcats Member of The Month OCTOBER 2009 Senior Member

    Jul 23, 2009
    Likes Received:
    This story is not related to Samba spy scandal. But it is about how quickly our Media make their judgement and brand someone as a terrorist. This is another shocking story of Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Purohit.

    So I am just posting it. It reflects how bad is our law enforcement agencies and how pathetic is our criminal justice system.

    One woman army​

    By Jisha Krishnan

    From an Army wife to a terrorist’s, the shift was cruel. On the one hand were media reports branding her husband, Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Purohit, ‘the Hindu face of terror’. On the other, were congratulatory messages from strangers who believed the Army man had done the right thing, something long overdue.

    “If my husband is guilty, I won’t stand by him. If he didn’t bother to think of his family, why should I care about him?” asks Aparna, Purohit’s wife. The prime accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast, Purohit is in Nashik jail.

    Aparna is not coldhearted—far from it, actually. Sitting in her in-laws’ ancestral bungalow at Pune, the homoeopathic practitioner, with a soft voice and striking repertoire of smiles, says she has enough reasons to believe her husband is innocent.

    “The prosecution doesn’t have any evidence against him. If it did, the trial would be on now,” she tells THE WEEK. It has been over seven months since the special court dropped the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act charges against Purohit. But the Bombay High Court hasn’t yet admitted the case. “Once the case comes up for hearing, I am certain he will be granted bail, and eventually, acquitted,” she says.

    The optimism is based on her own bit of ‘investigation’. For instance, when the police spoke to the media about the 400-minute-long telephonic conversation between Purohit and co-accused Sadhvi Pragya Singh, Aparna promptly crosschecked her husband’s phone records. “There was nothing! They say all this to the media and fail to produce anything before the court. It is unbelievable!”

    Initially, she was shocked, then angry and now, terribly disappointed. “My sons [aged 10 and five] have been without their father for one and a half years. Even if they acquit my husband tomorrow, how can they compensate for the lost time and agony?” she asks.

    The wellbeing of her sons has been her main concern, even at the height of the media frenzy following Purohit’s arrest in November 2008. Back then, newspapers and television were banned at their Pachmarhi home in Madhya Pradesh. She did all she could to keep the boys away from the catastrophe.

    The boys aren’t home during our conversation. They are probably at Aparna’s aunt’s place, the neighbouring bungalow, or still at school. Even as she agrees to share details about her closely guarded emotions, I sense the boundaries, the compartments to her soul that are clamped. She is adamant about keeping her folks away from the mess. They are strictly off limits.

    The boys haven't learnt about their father’s arrest. “The elder one believes baba is in the midst of some trouble at work, because of which he can’t call or meet them. The little one is too young to even understand anything,” says the mother.

    Sometimes, he throws tantrums in the middle of the night though, saying he wants to meet baba. “There’s nothing I can do then,” she sighs, and smiles. No matter how hard she tried, the mother realised that she couldn’t be their father.

    The boys had to move schools from Pachmarhi to Pune in the middle of the last academic year. The grades dropped and confidence dipped. “Being in the services, we’ve had long separations during our marriage. He was posted at Nagaland, Rajasthan, Kashmir But, then, it was different,” she says. For the first time, his absence is so palpable.

    He is present, though, in the artifacts that adorn the living room—a pair of swords and shield, a plaque that reads: O God bless us! May our family be represented every time India goes to war!

    The only way to deal with the present situation, Aparna realised, was through letters. “The boys write regularly to their father and eagerly await his reply. Once a month or so, he even calls up the children, with the court’s permission,” she says.

    The letters cheer him up in jail. “There are very few things that bring a smile to his face now. I think he is at the end of his patience. I can sense it,” says the wife, with a concerned smile.

    For someone who has been a workaholic all his life, doing nothing can be frustrating, says Aparna, about her husband. He gives spoken English classes to police officers in jail. “He is trying hard to stay sane, but it is not easy. Of late, he has started brooding over things, he gets emotional about little matters,” she says. This time it is a sad smile.

    The irony is hard to miss. A man who spent one and a half decades of his life getting hold of terrorists was now accused of being one of them. “He gave everything to his job, and this is what he got in return. How can the government expect young men to join the Army if this is how it treats one of its most able officers?” she asks.

    On November 5, 2008, when Aparna received a call from the Anti-Terrorism Squad in Mumbai, informing her of Purohit’s arrest, she didn’t know how to react. The Army had told her they were taking him to the headquarters in Delhi (on October 29). ?“I knew that there was some problem, perhaps, an inquiry into some matter that my husband was handling. But I was assured there was nothing to worry, he would be home soon… False assurances, all along,” she says.

    The lies—“they make my blood boil”—had only begun. Right from “the biased investigations” to “trial before the media, not courts”, the case has taught Aparna quite a few lessons. “Happiness shouldn’t be circumstantial. You must try to be happy in all situations. It helps you take better decisions,” she says, with a demonstrative grin.

    If you think about any problem rationally, you will realise that it could have been worse. If the ATS’s allegation that Purohit was also involved in the Samjhauta Express blast was proved to be true, or if talk about him being killed in an encounter was probable, Aparna is grateful that the worst hasn’t happened. It is perhaps the psychotherapy course she was pursuing in Pachmarhi—left mid-way—that is helping her see things in perspective.

    ‘Why me?’ is not a question she entertains, says Aparna. She knows why. She doesn’t tell me about her husband supposedly being privy to some sensitive data regarding SIMI and ISI operations, as claimed by the defence lawyer in court. Instead she says: “The small problems in life have never managed to ruffle me, so I got something big this time. It doesn’t get any bigger, does it?”

    Aparna has attended every court hearing of her husband, never missed the weekly visit to jail and made a conscious effort to do all the legal legwork alone. “My uncles, in-laws, other relatives and friends were keen to help. But I want to know what is going on, and be there myself,” she says.

    Even if it means shuttling between Pune, Nashik and Mumbai, and giving up her professional practice. “No regrets,” she assures me, towards the end of our three-hour talk.

    This is something she owes to the man who gave her ‘a chance to rebel’ (theirs was an inter-caste marriage, following a courtship of four years); the man who taught her, among other things, to cook (he had a degree in hotel management) while she could barely make tea; the man who, she believes, has been instrumental in making her a better person.

    Aparna’s take on terrorism: It is not about Hindus or Muslims. It is about Pakistan-sponsored anti-India activities carried out by SIMI and the ISI. The only people who benefit from mixing religion and terrorism are the politicians.

    Source - The WEEK
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