January 2003 News

Indian mly finds Kashmiri journalist innocent

8 January 2003
The Dawn

NEW DELHI: The Indian Military Intelligence has found nothing sensitive about the purported Pakistani documents over which a Kashmiri journalist has been languishing in jail since June last year , but Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishan Advani's Home Ministry is rejecting the army's view as untenable, The Hindu newspaper said on Wednesday. Kashmir Times journalist Iftikhar Gilani's traumatic experience has been heightened since Mr Advani himself has privately suggested that there was nothing in the prosecution, according to the newspaper. Gilani was arrested more than six months ago under the Official Secrets Act for possessing the document. 'In the trial court, the prosecutor said (on Tuesday) that the MI's opinion was 'irrelevant' and 'without authority' as the opinion was sought from the Director-General of Military Operations and not from the MI,' the Hinbdu said. But the trial judge, Sangita Dhingra Sehgal, said this claim had no basis. In her order, she said that the prosecution had presented no such communication to substantiate its case, and, in fact, the Joint Commissioner of Police, Neeraj Kumar, had confirmed to the court the receipt of the letter dated Dec 12 last from the MI. Dhingra Sehgal was quoted by the newspaper as saying that since 'the prosecution is avoiding to give a specific reply regarding the letter dated 12.12.2002, it is presumed that some request must have been made to the DGMI, after direction of the Sessions Court'. It was, therefore, 'once again necessary' to summon the Director-General of Military Intelligence and the Joint Commissioner of Police. The argument made on behalf of the government is particularly interesting since the Home Ministry declared the MI's opinion as 'untenable' on Dec 26 and on completely different grounds. The minutes of a meeting held in the Ministry on Dec 26, a copy of which is with The Hindu, concluded that the DGMI's opinion was 'based on the presumption that the information is in a printed publication', making its conclusion invalid. The Hindu asked the Home Secretary, N. Gopalaswami, and the Special Secretary, A. K. Bhandari, the basis of their assessment. Gopalaswami said 'There are reasons for it... we can discuss it later.' Bhandari, who first denied knowledge of the meeting, then said the question should be put to the MI. Presented with a copy of the minutes, he insisted that the conclusion was valid, the newspaper said. Asked if there was something particularly problematic about Gilani possessing the document, he did not comment. Would the government consider initiating prosecutions against others - including journalists and public-funded libraries - which possessed the same document? He said, 'yes we may... if it is inimical.' Gilani was arrested in June last year, and charged with offences under the Official Secrets Act. The MI, in June last year, claimed that possession of this information was a grave threat to national security. On Dec 12, 2002, the MI said that its early assessment was 'erroneous' and that it was 'obvious that this document carries no security classified information and the information seems to have been gathered from open sources'. 'The Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, has, at various points of time in the last two months, told mediapersons that the Government believed there was no basis for Mr Gilani's continued incarceration and that he should be granted bail,' the newspaper said. - Jay Enn


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