A month after the alleged suicide of Lance Naik Roy Mathew following the release of a sting video on the news website The Quint, in which he had spoken on the “sahayak” system in the Indian Army, Nashik police Monday booked journalist Poonam Aggarwal under sections of the Official Secrets Act and those relating to criminal trespass and abetment to suicide under the Indian Penal Code.
Official sources said a case was registered after the Army submitted an application to Nashik police, complaining against the journalist for illegally entering a prohibited area. The Army also accused the journalist of posing ‘leading questions’ to Mathew while carrying out the sting operation. The Army asked the police to treat the application as its complaint.
“After studying the application, we have registered a case against Aggarwal under Sections 3 and 7 of the Official Secrets Act and sections of the Indian Penal Code for criminal trespass and abetment to suicide,” said a senior officer at the Maharashtra Police headquarters. Police had recorded Aggarwal’s statement recently.
“They have given an application expressing concern over the journalist entering a prohibited area with a spy camera and filming an Army premises which is not allowed. After studying the application, a case has been registered,” the officer said.
Sources said during her questioning, the journalist had shared details, including those of contacts who helped her enter the Deolali cantonment where the sting video was shot. Police have collected the original video footage from the journalist — the website had removed the video and the report.
“She has given us a chronology of the events leading to the sting operation and has also shared details of the contacts within the Army who helped her get inside the prohibited area. She has even shared her chats with various jawans whom she had spoken during the course of her story on an app-based messenger service. We have taken a copy of those chats,” the officer said.
Reached for comment, Aggarwal said: “After my story was published online, I had shared the link with the Army. At that time, they did not not raise any question about me entering a prohibited area. Instead, they told me they will probe the allegations made by the jawan in the sting operation. The allegation of trespass seems to be an afterthought.” She claimed that Mathew committed suicide because of an internal inquiry carried by the Army. An email and text messages to The Quint remained unanswered.
Mathew was found hanging on February 25 after the sting video of him criticising the ‘sahayak system’ in the Army went viral. Police recovered a diary from the abandoned barrack where his body was found. A note in Malayalam described the circumstances that made him take his life. In the note, Mathew feared he would have to face a court-martial for allegedly speaking out against the Army. Police are awaiting the forensic report to confirm whether the note was written by Mathew.