THE NASHIK police recently recorded the statement of the journalist who carried out a sting operation exposing the ‘Sahayak system’ in the Indian Army, which allegedly drove gunner Roy Mathew to commit suicide last month. The soldier hanged himself from the ceiling of an abandoned barrack in Deolali cantonment of Nashik after the sting operation, in which he was filmed along with other soldiers, went viral.
Confirming the development, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Nashik City, Shrikant Dhiware told The Indian Express that the journalist was questioned twice by the police.
Meanwhile, the Army has approached the police with a fresh application seeking a probe on how the journalist secured access to a restricted area where filming is prohibited. Shooting a video using a spy camera inside a military premise could amount to an offence under the anti-espionage law, the Official Secrets Act (OSA), 1923. The Act says one cannot approach, inspect, or even pass over a prohibited government site or area. However, the Maharashtra Police is treading cautiously and studying if the stringent provisions of OSA can be applied in this case. “They have given an application expressing concerns over the journalist entering a prohibited area with a spy camera and filming inside an Army premise, which is not allowed. We are studying the application to see if it merits for any action,” a senior officer told The Indian Express.
The Army declined to comment on the issue.
According to police sources, the journalist has shared all details, including the contacts who helped her enter the Deolali cantonment where the sting operation was carried out. “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,” said the officer.
Messages sent to the journalist did not elicit a response.
While the police have registered an accidental death register (ADR) in the case under certain sections of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPc), they are probing if it merits an FIR. The probe team has also collected the original footage of the sting operation from the journalist.
“We are studying the footage to see if the journalist had asked leading questions as claimed by the Army. Also, the original recording will help us ascertain what Mathew actually told the journalist,” said the officer. “The family hasn’t registered a case against anyone for abetment of his suicide and therefore only once the probe is completed we will take a decision if we need to register a case,” the officer added.
Mathew hanged himself on February 25 after the sting operation video of him criticising the ‘sahayak system’ in the Army went viral. The police had recovered a diary from the abandoned barrack where his body was found. The soldier had written a note in Malayalam describing the circumstances that led to him taking the extreme step.
In his note, Mathew reportedly said no one should be held responsible for his death. Giving a detailed account, Mathew was said to have written that he was approached by a woman who casually spoke to him and asked questions about the Sahayak system. He also expressed fear of being court-martialled for “speaking against the Army”. “I would prefer death to being court-martialled, Mathew has written,” said another senior officer privy to the probe.