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CBI springs Tehelka charges

New Delhi, July 27 (PTI): The CBI has filed a chargesheet against two reporters of Tehelka news portal, including its editor (investigations) Aniruddh Bahal, two officials of the home ministry and Buffalo Networks, which owned the website, in an Official Secrets Act case.

The CBI complaint against Bahal and Mathew Samuel of Tehelka, director in home ministry Thomas Mathew and section officer Neeraj Kumar was filed recently in the chief metropolitan magistrate’s court. The matter has been posted for hearing on August 25.

The CBI claimed Kumar, Mathew, Bahal and Samuel entered into a criminal conspiracy to obtain secret documents that were exhibited on www.tehelka.com on October 9, 2000.

The bureau has stated in its complaint that joint secretary in the home ministry K.K. Pillai had ordered an inquiry by the Intelligence Bureau after the website put out a story, “Are Dutch innocent”. The story contained information allegedly obtained from a secret file, numbered 11011/40/99 and titled “Dutch interest in India’s fringe politics”.

Investigations disclosed that on October 9, the minutes of a meeting regarding the Dutch file appeared almost verbatim on the news portal, which contained other details as well.

The then Dutch ambassador, Peter Loch, had protested to the joint secretary in the external affairs ministry, prompting a thorough inquiry. The Intelligence Bureau’s report to the joint secretary in the home ministry allegedly pointed a finger at Kumar and Mathew, the CBI said.

Later, after the case was handed over to the CBI, the bureau claimed that Kumar, Mathew, Samuel and Bahal were very close and Tehelka reporter Samuel had frequently visited North Block between August 19 and November 16, 2000.

He had also visited the ministry of statistics to meet Kumar, the bureau alleged.

The record of Samuel’s cell phone “9810274694” showed that he had made regular calls between August 21 and December 18, 2000, to a number “3015106” that belonged to Mathew and to Kumar’s “3733230”.

According to the CBI, the two Tehelka reporters visited Kumar’s residence at Munirka and offered to instal a computer so that he could write articles for the website but he turned them down.

Mathew later called Kumar and asked him to write an article after which he penned the piece “Are Dutch innocent”, which was nothing but an extract of the classified file of the home ministry, the CBI alleged.

Once the article was done, Mathew asked Kumar to come to his office with a file about the Northeast and there the section officer was asked to hand over photocopies of the documents in order to substantiate his article, claims the bureau.

While naming Buffalo Network as an accused in the case, the CBI claimed that the documents procured from various sources showed that Tarun Tejpal was the managing director of the company and Bahal the director between October 9 and 10, 2000, the period during which the crime was committed.

Contesting Bahal’s contention that he did not know Mathew of home ministry, the CBI claimed that the same director had issued a priority certificate to the Tehelka reporter on October 24, 2000 for issuance of passport.

The CBI has also recorded Kumar’s confessional statement under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which has been annexed with the chargesheet. The confessional report also showed that Kumar had written the article, the CBI said.

The chargesheet was filed after the Centre gave permission to the CBI for filing a complaint in the case under Section 120B and relevant section of Officials Secrets Act.

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