For allegedly leaking confidential information related to an ongoing submarine project, two separate charge sheets were filed by the CBI on Tuesday, including two retired officers and a serving commander of the Indian Navy. The information leak was done in return for illegal gratification, as said by sources.
Five persons, including serving and retired officers were arrested by the agency in September while another one serving in the Indian Navy has been arrested since then.
Under various sections of the Indian Penal Code along with the Prevention of Corruption Act, all the accused have been charge-sheeted. Executive Director of Allen Reinforced Plastics Ltd TP Shastri and company directors N V Rao and K Chandrashekhar are the ones identified as the three private individuals.
A CBI officer said that one more serving officer who has not yet been charge-sheeted but is arrested in the case while several other retired and serving officers are currently under the CBI scanner. Information of commercial nature with certain private companies was shared by the officers, one being a Korean company. While the investigation is still on, one of the arrested retired officers was working.
Important documents and digital evidence was been seized by the CBI when they conducted searches at 19 locations in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam among others on 2 September. According to sources, the seized evidence is currently being forensically examined.
An amount of ₹2.4 crores in cash was recovered from the house of Randeep Singh by the agency during the searches. One of the CBI officers said that the amount included ₹2.9 lakh trap money which was received by Randeep from S J Singh.
Sources further added that crucial details about the ongoing modernisation project of Kilo-class submarines were discussed by the accused commanders serving at the Western Naval Command in Mumbai with the two retired officers for alleged illegal gratification.
To unearth the leakage of information, the task was given to the Anti-Corruption Unit of the agency following which the operation was started. The above-cited agency handles sensitive and high profile corruption cases.
Sources said several other officers and ex-servicemen were questioned by the unit as they were in regular touch with the arrested officer and retired personnel.
Earlier in a statement, the Indian Navy had revealed that an appropriate government agency is investigating a case that has come to light with regards to alleged information leak of administrative and commercial nature being with some unauthorised personnel.
While sources have said that a high-level inquiry panel headed by a Vice Admiral has been appointed by the Navy to examine how information was leaked and to recommend corrective measures. A rear admiral as well among others are in the inquiry committee.
Earlier security breaches
The episode is considered a major security setback for the Indian Naval Forces while it is not for the first time such a breach has occurred.
Considered as one of the biggest defence scandals of the nation, over 7,000 pages of sensitive information was leaked back in May 2005. This information included the Navy’s plans for the next 20 years while the act was referred to as the notorious Naval War Room leak.
When an Air Defence Directorate officer was put under surveillance by the Indian Air Force Intelligence, the case came to light. A pen drive was recovered by the IAF containing the sensitive information about India’s naval and maritime plans for the next 20 years while the leak was later traced to the Maritime Operations Centre of the Directorate of Naval Operations in Delhi, as per the report released by the Economic Times.
After reports in Australia revealed the leaking of the entire design plan of India’s Scorpene submarine fleet, alarm bells rang again in the South Block in 2016.
On the other hand, it was said by the Indian Navy in a statement that probably the leak seems to have been from overseas and not in India.
For leaking sensitive information to Pakistan intelligence services on social media, 13 Indian Navy personnel were arrested in February 2020.
The names of the top-level officers, ships and submarines, details of other colleagues recruited recently from various naval bases and routes operated by the arrested navy personnel were revealed by them. Some vital locations were also disclosed along with movements of warships and submarines.