CORRUPTION IN RAW – NO ACTION BY CVC
Maj Gen VK Singh’s book India’s External Intelligence – Secrets of the Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) was published by Manas Publications in June 2007. The book brings to light several lacunae in the functioning of RAW, the most glaring being corruption in the procurement of equipment, lack of accountability, and our dependence on foreign sources. Three months after the publication of the book, the CBI raided the house of Maj Gen VK Singh and impounded his computer, passport and some other documents. The CBI informed him that they had registered an FIR under Section 5 of the Official Secrets Act, 1923, based on a complaint from the RAW that he had revealed ‘secrets’ in the book that endanger the security and sovereignty of India. Fearing his imminent arrest, he applied for anticipatory bail on 25/9/2007. During the hearing, held on 25/9/2007 before the Sessions Judge, Tis Hazari, the CBI opposed the bail application. However, they were unable to produce any evidence to support their plea. They informed the court that they had still to read the book and examine the other documents seized from his house and therefore needed more time. The CBI filed a charge sheet in the Court of the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate on 11/4/2008. The CMM took cognizance of the case on 31/1/2009 and issued summons. Maj Gen VK Singh appeared before the CMM on 4/5/2009 and applied for regular bail which was granted on 3/8/2009.
Why is Maj Gen VK Singh being targeted? There are many reasons. One is that he was an outsider, while Raman and Sankaran Nair, whose books came out at about the same time, are both old RAW hands. In the Hindustan Times of 13/10/07, Barkha Dutt wrote:-
Moreover, why has V.K. Singh been singled out for punishment? After all, a slew of recent books by former spies – including one by security analyst B. Raman that accuses Rajiv Gandhi of covering up the Bofors probe – have been allowed into the public domain without fuss or fury. Could it be because V.K. Singh was never an ‘insider’ but a military officer on deputation? Is this just petty bureaucratic politics playing itself out?
In the Indian Express on 9/10/07 M. Veerappa Moily, then Chairman of the Administrative Reforms Commission and present Union Law Minister, wrote:-
Such overly harsh and sweeping provisions help create a Kafaesque atmosphere of secrecy about even trifling matters as shown by the travails of a former RAW officer whose criticism of the procurement practices in his former organisation have been taken to be a breach of the OSA. His revelations may be considered as whistle-blowing by some while his former colleagues may consider them to be washing dirty linen in public. But how such allegations can be considered a breach of national security is difficult to fathom.
TSR Subramanian, who was the Cabinet Secretary between 1996 and 1998, wrote in the Indian Express on 6/10/07:
……How can a person be hauled up before court for revealing official secrets if the prosecuting agency does not even know what secrets are being revealed? This is some kind of Alice in Wonderland situation. ……V.K. Singh is basically to be seen as a whistleblower.
Another reason is that the book has named several officers who were corrupt. Some of them were very senior, belonging to the Cabinet Secretariat, MHA, SPG and RAW. Their names have been published in many articles. (Double Checking by Saikat Datta in the Outlook, 28 Jan 2008). These officers are naturally extremely annoyed at the disclosure and have vowed to teach the ‘whistle blower’ a lesson. It was expected that some of them may drag him to court – the fact that they have not done so is itself a pointer. Rather than sue him for libel, they have hit on a better option – prosecuting him under the OSA. It does not cost a penny, and they will achieve their aim, without their names being dragged in court.
It is pertinent that Maj Gen VK Singh had reported these cases to his superiors while in service. There were two cases which involved corruption. One was the procurement of the Motorola system by the SPG and the other was the purchase of VHF/UHF antennae by RAW. (In the third case of VSATs, there was no corruption but attempts to sabotage the project by moles). He reported both cases in writing right up the chain. In the SPG case he even wrote a DO letter to a Joint Secretary in the PMO, after which the order was cancelled. (Strangely enough, the SPG case does not find mention in my charge sheet). The same happened in the case of the antennae. The order was put on hold. However, after he left RAW, both items were purchased at the original price. It was only after this that he decided to put it in the book.
On 16/11/2007 Maj Gen VK Singh made formal complaint to the CVC, regarding his harassment by RAW for pointing out instances of corruption in the organisation. On 17/11/2007 another complaint was filed by Shri Vivek Garg, of Manas Publications regarding corruption in RAW and SPG. The complaint quoted specific instances of corruption with the names of the officers involved mentioned in the book India’s External Intelligence – Secrets of the Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) written by Maj Gen VK Singh. The latter personally met the CVC, Shri Pratyush Sinha, and requested him to take action on the two complaints. A delegation from the Whistle Blowers Forum, comprising Prashant Bhushan, Arvind Kejriwal and Admiral Tahiliani also met the CVC and asked him to get the cases investigated. However, the CVC did nothing, as was revealed later.
On 13/12/2007, the CVC transferred Maj Gen VK Singh’s complaint to the Cabinet Secretariat. Finding that no action has been taken by the Cabinet Secretariat, he submitted an application under the RTI Act to CPIO Cabinet Secretariat on 9/6/2008. As expected, the Cabinet Sectt replied that RAW was exempted from the RTI Act. On 2/7/2008 Maj Gen VK Singh filed a complaint with the CIC. After several hearings in which both parties were present, a hearing was held on 25/11/2008, in which Maj Gen VK Singh was not allowed to appear, on the grounds that RAW was only going to show some classified documents. However, a lawyer attended the hearings. When a copy of the order was received, it showed Maj Gen Singh as having attended the hearing. Saikat Datta of Outlook, who was also debarred from attending, filed an RTI application with the CIC. In response, the CIC sent a copy of the attendance sheet in which Maj Gen VK Singh’s name had been written as having attended the hearing, a clear case of forgery.
In his RTI application, Maj Gen VK Singh had asked whether any inquiry was conducted by Cabinet Sectt into the allegations of corruption. The CIC’s order asked them to give an answer. Shortly afterwards, Cabinet Secretariat sent a reply that no enquiry had been conducted. Maj Gen VK Singh filed an application with the CIC, submitting that the answer was false, since it had been reported in Outlook of 28/1/2008 that the NSA had ordered an enquiry to be conducted by G.B.S. Sidhu, an ex Special secretary of RAW. Maj Gen VK Singh had already filed a separate RTI application with the Cabinet Sectt asking for action taken on the enquiry by G.B. S, Sidhu, to which the response was that no such enquiry was held. Both cases were heard together buy CIC on 17/2/2010. The CIC said that he would confirm from the NSA whether he had ordered the inquiry and then give his decision. On 22/2/2010 the CIC issued his order, stating that he had been informed by the present NSA on e mail that ‘there is no record of NSA ordering an enquiry on allegations in the book”. The fact is, the enquiry was held, as reported in the media. This was also stated by Rana Banerjee, ex Special Secretary of RAW during a seminar held in the NMML recently. The NSA probably ordered RAW to conduct an enquiry verbally, so naturally there will be no record in the files of the NSCS.
Coming to the complaint by Vivek Garg, on 26/12/2008 Maj Gen VK Singh filed an application under the RTI Act with the CPIO of CVC asking for action taken on the complaint. A reply was received from the CPIO on 6/1/2009, informing that the complaint has been filed. Maj Gen VK Singh filed a First appeal with Shri Alok Bhatnagar, Additional Secretary and Appellate Authority CVC. He replied on 16/2/2009 upholding the decision of the CPIO. Maj Gen VK Singh then filed a 2nd Appeal with CIC on 25/2/2009 and asked to be allowed to examine the files notings relating to the complaint. The CVC contended that there were no file notings and the decision to file the complaint had been taken on the complaint itself. The CIC ordered them to show the complaint and the remarks given on it to Maj Gen VK Singh.
The CVC sent a photo copy of the complaint on 30/4/20010, but the remarks were illegible. Maj Gen VK Singh asked them to send me a transcript which was sent to him on 4/6/2010. The remarks are as given below:-
Most of it distorted and mischeivious. The application too seems pseudonymous. May be filed.
Sd/- Sudhir Kumar, 21.11.2007.
It is clear from the instances mentioned above that even the CVC is reluctant to take action against RAW, in spite of specific instances of corruption pointed out to him. Maj Gen VK Singh has filed an application with the CMM under CrPc 156 (3) to direct the CBI to investigate the cases of corruption in RAW. Hearings are being held for the last one year, but the CMM has still to issue the orders.