The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ministries in scribe blame game

New Delhi, Jan. 7: The Iftikar Geelani case today triggered a blame game between the Union home and defence ministries.

The home ministry blamed its defence counterpart of saying that the information relating to the position of Indian troops on the Kashmir border, downloaded by Geelani from a website, was not secret and that even printed books were available on the subject.

The home ministry, in its submission before the trial court, said the opinion of the Directorate-General of Military Intelligence (DGMI) was irrelevant and that even the law ministry was of the opinion that the “nature” of information Geelani possessed was “prejudicial” to the interest of the country.

Geelani, Delhi bureau chief of the Kashmir Times, was arrested after information relating to troops deployment was found in his house during an income-tax raid. His counsel, V.K. Ori, argued that a journalist or any ordinary citizen downloading information from a website could not attract the provisions of the Official Secrets Act and that there were several publications available on the subject.

The DGMI told the court during the last hearing that it was no more a secret.

The home ministry in its submissions today repudiated the DGMI and stated it should give its opinion “having regard to the nature of the information” and not any opinion like the one that the same information is available in a “printed publication”.

The whole case rests on the law point — “whether possession of such information, even if one were a journalist, is against the law, particularly the Official Secrets Act” under which Geelani has been booked.

The home ministry stated that the opinion of the DGMI “is not tenable”.

Trial judge Sangita Dhingra Seghal summoned the lieutenant general of DGMI “to clarify under whose authority” the earlier submission was made in the court. She said “it is presumed that some request must have been made to the investigation officer of the DGMI”. The case will now be taken up on January 13.

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