A Delhi court Tuesday dismissed the bail plea of journalist Rajeev Sharma, who has been accused of espionage under the Official Secrets Act in a case registered by Delhi Police’s Special Cell. The court also dismissed his plea to allow him to make public the contents of the FIR.
“An independent press is stated to be the fourth pillar of democracy. A journalist is an important brick in the said pillar of democracy. The foundation of democracy cannot be shaken if all pillars of the democracy including the press work towards stability and growth. However, if a journalist…decides to act with the intention to destabilise and negatively impact the sustainability and survival of democracy, that would be a darkest day in the Free Press movement,” said the court, while declining the bail plea.
In his order, Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Pawan Singh Rajawat said Sharma may attempt to hamper the investigation if he is released on bail at this stage. “I have perused the case file which includes not only the disclosure statement of the accused persons but also other material which were recovered at his instance coupled with the preliminary electronic evidence collected by the investigating agency, points towards involvement of accused in commission of offence under Sections 3/4 and 5 of the Official Secrets Act, 1923,” the court said in the order.
Sharma, represented by senior advocate Adish Aggarwala, had argued while seeking bail that he is a senior journalist, aged about 61 years, and is suffering from various ailments like acute sinus problems and is at high risk of contracting coronavirus. However, the court said the ailments are not such they would endanger to his life if denied bail. The court also noted that jail administration has made arrangements for keeping new entrants in isolation wards or cells to prevent spread of Covid-19. As per the case details, Sharma is accused of having links with foreign intelligence officers and getting funds from “foreign handlers” for allegedly conveying sensitive information pertaining to national security and foreign relations. He was arrested on September 14. A Chinese and a Nepalese national were arrested later.
The court also said the “likelihood of any attempt of tampering evidence or influencing witnesses cannot be ruled out” if Sharma is released on bail, adding, “…the involvement of foreign agencies at whose behest accused Sharma was passing out the sensitive information is yet to be investigated. If released, he may indulge in thwarting the course of investigation.”
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