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Parliament protects its own in spy probe

New Delhi, Jan. 21: Blank forms for asking “starred questions”, signed by two MPs, were found with a Lok Sabha employee arrested in December 2001 for passing information to Pakistan but the case is held up because of Parliament’s refusal to hand over documents to police.

Ajay Kumar, a senior executive assistant in the Lok Sabha secretariat, has been behind bars since December 25, 2001, under the Official Secrets Act on charges of passing on secret documents to Pakistan High Commission employee Sharif Khan.

During raids on Kumar’s office and home, Delhi police’s special cell had allegedly found blank forms for asking starred questions signed by the two BJP MPs, Ramchandra Veerappa and Bahadur Singh Koli, sources said.

Through starred questions, MPs seek a reply from the government in Parliament. Delhi police alleged that Kumar, who was working as unofficial assistant to these two MPs, was using starred questions to obtain information from the government which he then passed on to the Pakistan High Commission.

Doubts have, however, been raised whether information sought through parliamentary questions can be termed “classified” since the answers are pasted on the official website and are, therefore, in the public domain.

Some blank forms of general passes for entry into Parliament, signed by Veerappa and Koli, were also seized from Kumar’s residence, police sources said. The special cell fears that these passes might have been misused.

In January last year, the Lok Sabha Speaker allowed the police to inspect documents relevant to the investigation, including access to data on the names of persons who got an entry into Parliament on the basis of passes signed by these two MPs.

However, a month later, the police realised that it would be tough to get the original copies of these documents.

The papers were required so that a handwriting expert could judge whether the writing on them matched Kumar’s. The police were supposed to submit the documents before a city court.

It is learnt that a Parliament committee had sought replies from Veerappa and Koli on the police queries.

While Veerappa refused to comment, Koli said he never gave any signed starred question forms to anyone.

The committee, regarding this as a special case of espionage, is understood to have recommended to the Speaker in the second week of May last year that the original documents be given to the police.

The Speaker replied to the committee chairman a month later, it is learnt, asking him to take a fresh look at the recommendations in view of a few MPs raising objections to the documents exchanging hands. Over a year later, the police have still not got the originals.

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