The Delhi High Court on Friday granted default bail to freelance journalist Rajeev Sharma, who is facing charges of espionage under the Official Secrets Act in a case registered by Delhi Police’s Special Cell.
“The petitioner is directed to provide his contact number/address to the SHO concerned as also he shall keep open his location app in his mobile at all time and shall not leave the NCR of Delhi without seeking permission of the learned Trial Court,” said Justice Yogesh Khanna in the order.
Sharma is accused of having links with Chinese intelligence officers and having received funds from “foreign handlers” for allegedly conveying sensitive information pertaining to national security and foreign relations. Sharma was arrested on September 14. Two other persons – a Chinese and a Nepalese national – were arrested by the police later.
Sharma had earlier moved a petition under Section 167(2) before the lower court contending that he be released on default bail since 60 days allowed to the investigating agency for completion of investigation have ended but the chargesheet has not been filed. His plea was dismissed by a Patiala House Court Duty Metropolitan Magistrate on November 16 which said the time period of filing the chargesheet in the case would be 90 days.
However, the High Court on Friday said Sharma is entitled to default bail since the challan has not been filed within 60 days. The court added that the law laid down is that where the offence is punishable with a minimum sentence of 10 years, the period of challan is 90 days but the Official Secrets Act does not talk about minimum sentence.
“Under the Official Secret Acts for which the petitioner is being tried, though entail punishment which may extend to 14 years but the Section does not talk of minimum period of sentence and thus does not pass the test of clear period of 10 years or more … and as such the period of challan in this case would be 60 days and thus the impugned order passed by the learned MM being illegal is set aside and the petition is allowed,” it said in the order.
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