The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is preparing to go to the Supreme Court against a Karnataka High Court order which asked the agency to furnish all evidence it had collected on the alleged espionage activity of a Lashkar-e-Toiba terror module, busted in 2012 in Bengaluru, to the 11 accused. It has sought the permission of the Union Home Ministry for the same.
The agency says the evidence includes sensitive information on and pictures of the Kaiga nuclear power plant, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), some defence establishments and other vital installations. These, it says, cannot be shared with the accused as these could get leaked.
The agency also argues that sections of the Official Secrets Act (OSA) have been invoked against only one of the accused, and thus details could not be shared with all of them. Even to that accused, the evidence should be shown only in court and he must not be allowed to take it to jail, believes the agency.
As per the NIA case, the LeT module busted in 2012 was planning to assassinate prominent right-wing Hindu leaders, journalists and police personnel apart from carrying out terror strikes, on instructions of ISI-linked operatives in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
One of the “key planners”, Abu Sufiyan, who allegedly helped arrange finances and facilitated travel of two of the accused to Pakistan for training, was deported to India from Saudi Arabia last week.
A Bangalore sessions court had first ordered on May 15 that the evidence collected under the OSA be provided to 11 of the accused. The HC had reiterated the same in its order on November 9. The court said the prosecution must “furnish copy of mirror image of three internal hard disks, six laptops, seven pen drives and two hard disks… to the accused persons”.
The HC relied on Section 207 of the CrPC that asks all the statements and evidence to be provided to accused to help them defend themselves against charges.
The NIA had argued in court that only one of the accused, Mohammed Sadiq Lashkar (of Hubli in Karnataka), was accused of espionage under the OSA and thus the sensitive evidence could not be shared with all.
Preparing to go to the Supreme Court, a senior NIA official said, “It’s a matter of national security. How can information about sensitive nuclear and defence establishments be shared with accused in jail? What is the guarantee it will not find its way to other inmates in jail or some other people through his lawyer? The accused can come to court and inspect the evidence for as many days as he likes.”
The NIA will argue that Section 207 of the CrPC also provides for perusal of evidence within the court. The section says that in case any document is voluminous, the magistrate “shall, instead of furnishing the accused with a copy thereof, direct that he will only be allowed to inspect it either personally or through pleader in Court”.
It will also argue that Section 482 of the CrPC (which deals with the inherent powers of the HC) gives the HC powers to use discretion irrespective of what is inherent in the CrPC. The section allows the HC to make such orders that “may be necessary to give effect to any order under this Code, or to prevent abuse of the process of any Court or otherwise, to secure the ends of justice”.