In a fresh twist to the four decade-old Samba spy case, the Supreme Court on Thursday quashed a Delhi High Court order and held the termination of six Army officers, including three Majors, was valid on charges of espionage in the 1970s.
The High Court on December 21, 2000, had given a clean chit to nine officers accused of spying for Pakistan in Samba sector of Jammu and Kashmir between 1972 and 1978. It had set aside the termination order, holding no material establishing their involvement in the espionage, was brought on record. The Ministry of Defence had moved the Supreme Court against the verdict.
On Thursday, a bench of Justices B S Chauhan, J Chelameswar and M Y Eqbal held that the HC order was bad in law and on facts since it did not just hear an issue already settled by the apex court in 1980 in a related matter. The SC also noted that the verdict erroneously interfered with the President’s power to remove the Army officers.
Allowing a bunch of appeals by the MoD, the apex court noted that no fault could be found with the termination on espionage charges, since the suggestions and recommendations had gone up to the level of the Defence Ministry and the Prime Minister and eventually the President.
“The link file further reveals that confessional statements of Captain Ashok Kumar Rana and other officers were also recorded, and strong prima facie case was found relating to the involvement of these officers in espionage activities and sharing information with the Pakistani intruders,” the court noted.
The officers affected by the SC order are: N R Ajwani, S P Sharma and R Kmidha (deceased) — all holding ranks of Major at that time, and Captains Arun Sharma, J S Yadav, V K Diwan and another officer.
The MoD had raised the question over the HC deciding the issue although the cases attained finality after the SC rejected their Special Leave Petitions against the dismissal order in 1981.
Between August 1978 and January 1979, around 50 people, working with the 168 Infantry Brigade and its subordinate units at Samba, were arrested for allegedly spying for Pakistan at the behest of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (MI). Probe 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, non-commissioned officers, and personnel of other ranks, as well as 11 civilians. They were all taken into custody based on the statement of two self-confessed Pakistani spies — Sarwan Dass and Aya Singh, who worked as gunners in the Indian Army.
The assailants then got into the car in which they came and drove off.