PIMPRI-CHINCHWAD POLICE booked two men under the Official Secrets Act (OSA), which is primarily an anti-espionage legislation, for “spying” when one of them allegedly recorded proceedings at a police station in a matter of preventive action against the other, on his mobile phone.
Police identified the two men as Kailas Nathuram Chavan (32), a resident of Dehu village near Pune, and his friend Tushar Chavan. According to police, on Monday, Kailas was summoned to Dehu Road police station in a matter of preventive action against him. Under various legal provisions like Criminal Procedure Code, Bombay Police Act or Maharashtra Prevention of Dangerous Activities Act, police have the powers to take preventive action against persons if they are a danger to law and order.
Police said Kailas was summoned due to his criminal history and, as per procedure, asked to fill up some details and submit a bond to the authorities. He was accompanied by Tushar when he arrived at the police station, police said.
Inspector R H Rajmane said, “When a constable was completing the formalities and paperwork related to the preventive action, the history-sheeter was trying to provoke our staffer by making suggestions of reaching a compromise with some underhand dealing. While the constable kept ignoring these, another constable observed that the second person was wrongfully recording the conversation on his phone.”
“Upon primary suspicion that he was illegally recording the proceedings, we called two witnesses from outside and checked the phone in their presence. We found the recording of what was happening earlier. Subsequently, the two were booked under the Official Secrets Act.”
Police have booked Kailas and Tushar under sections 3 and 7 of the OSA, pertaining to “penalties for spying” and “interfering with officers of the police or members of the armed forces of the Union”, respectively.
The Indian Express spoke to senior officers from the Pimpri-Chinchwad Police, who hinted that invoking the OSA was “uncalled for” and a result of “oversight”. A senior officer said a report might soon be submitted to the designated court to that effect after a preliminary probe in the matter.
Rajmane said a probe would be conducted and a report submitted to the court as per the findings.
Pune-based human rights lawyer Asim Sarode said, “Based on the details available, this does not seem like a case that would attract the OSA. Neither the place where it happened was prohibited nor the ongoing matter was pertaining to national security. However, the correctness of the person’s action of recording without permission can be a different subject. Having said that, the OSA has been misused in several cases in the past. It is one of those Acts that legal experts have demanded should be scrapped, and the Law Commission has made recommendations to that effect.”
Section 3 of the OSA, which has been invoked in this case, specifically pertains to collection or dissemination of details “intended to be, directly or indirectly, useful to an enemy” or “which relates to a matter the disclosure of which is likely to affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state or friendly relations with foreign states”. The Section 7, on the other hand, states that “no person in the vicinity of any prohibited place shall obstruct, knowingly mislead or otherwise interfere with or impede, any police officer, or any member of the armed forces of the Union engaged on guard, sentry, patrol, or other similar duty in relation to the prohibited place”.