The disbanded Technical Support Division (TSD), a covert operations unit set up during the tenure of former Army Chief General V K Singh, is back in the news with its former Commanding Officer, Colonel Hunny Bakshi, writing a letter to Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar asking for a clampdown on all information on its operations in the “nation’s interests.”
The letter, dated March 1, comes against the backdrop of the ongoing General Court Martial (GCM) against Shyam Das D, the only clerk employed in the TSD who is alleged to have sold “highly sensitive operational data” and was arrested in Kochi in May 2012.
The Indian Express (June 2, 2012) had first reported the arrest of the TSD staffer and later (September 20, 2013) reported on the controversial findings of the Board of Officers inquiry headed by Lt General Vinod Bhatia.
Officials said that the GCM being held in the Delhi Cantt should conclude its hearings within a few weeks — 14 prosecution witnesses have been examined — has sent a “scare” among the 36 other staff who were working in that sensitive unit.
Bakshi, now posted in Karu in Ladakh, begins his letter by stating that the TSD was set up and based on “deniability, that is covert operations…deniability is deemed to be denied in any situation or circumstances…TSD as a unit was formally never set up because of the clause of deniability.”
Coming to the case against Das, Bakshi adds: “The Army in its exuberance will punish him but the individual will definitely move superior courts, where the evidence, that is the CDs will again be brought in for inspection of the courts and civilian lawyers.”
These CDs are the ones recovered from Das when he was intercepted by a team of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) in Kochi and later handed over to military authorities (see box). First, a Court of Inquiry was held by the Army and later the ongoing Court Martial was ordered.
Bakshi has said that the CDs were treated as material evidence by the court martial based on a covering letter received from the MI-9 DGMI (director general military intelligence) after Das’s arrest. “The (court martial) will go away, but once the case is in superior courts, they will ask to confirm or deny the material in the CDs…also once the material is taken as evidence it will not be easy to deny the same of operations particularly in neighbouring countries and the same will affect the international and bilateral relations. My duty is to inform you of the likely harms upon the nations interests, which I foresee in the present state.”
To buttress his case, he has argued that all information on TSD has been denied on the floor of Parliament as well as via the Right to Information Act in the past. “The accused will go to a superior court, wherein, the production of the evidence then cannot be refused, which if it comes to public knowledge like the secret Board of Officers report, it will become prejudicial to national security, interests and foreign affairs.”
Significantly, he also writes to the Defence Minister that, “the nation is trying to get a place in the Security Council and has an open stated policy, wherein the concept of TSD is in direct conflict on the stated position of the nation, internationally. In fact, in a citation for an award of an officer, we were asked to remove the word ‘covert’ as it is not the stated position of the country and the copy of a citation has to be given if asked through RTI.”
Bakshi has also informed the Minister that under provisions of the Indian Evidence Act (section 162) he will not answer any questions posed to him either by the prosecution or defence side in the GCM but this should not be construed as the act of an indisciplined soldier. Sources, however said, that Bakshi deposed before the GCM last week.
What the CDs have:
The over 400-page proceedings of the Court of Inquiry held against Shyam Das contain snapshots of files in the incriminating CDs recovered from him and a list of the files in the CDs. Some of the listed files are:
* The proposed command and control of TSD; organisation
* Summary of monthly payment of MI funds (2010-2011)
* Details of claims and temporatry duty of TSD officials including Col Bakshi
* Details of visits abroad; usage of post-paid mobile connections
* Details of vehicle stickers, bank statements of expenses
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