The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Frame-up suit stares at Delhi spycatchers

New Delhi, Jan. 12: With the Centre deciding to withdraw the case against Kashmir Times journalist Iftikar Geelani, his counsel V.K. Ohri will press for legal action against the home ministry and Delhi police officers for contempt and misleading the court.

“We will request the court for legal action against the officials on Monday, when the case comes up for hearing,” Ohri said. The officials should be punished for misguiding and withholding information from the court which amounts to contempt of court, he said.

Ohri had earlier moved an application for contempt proceedings against the officials concerned.

Chief metropolitan magistrate Sangita Dhingra Sehgal will hear the plea to discharge Geelani after going through the Centre’s report on withdrawing the charges against him under the Official Secrets Act. Geelani has been in jail since June.

The contents of the case files suggest that the home ministry also tried to negate the authority of the Directorate-General of Military Intelligence.

The military intelligence, in its second opinion, had declared that the printouts taken from Geelani’s computer on troops deployment in Jammu and Kashmir were of “negligible security value”.

Its report added strength to Geelani’s argument that the papers seized from him on troops deployment were available in the public domain. The information was sourced from a booklet called Denial of Freedom and Human Rights, brought out by Islamabad’s Institute of Strategic Studies (ISS) in January 1996.

There are 12 libraries in India, including the Institute of Defence and Strategic Analysis and the Indian Council of World Affairs, which subscribe to ISS publications.

According to Ohri, home ministry undersecretary B.R. Dhiman’s report, submitted to the chief metropolitan magistrate’s court on January 7, was a pointer to the ministry’s “mischief”.

Dhiman, in his letter to the court, presented the ministry’s view on the military intelligence’s revised opinion of December 12. “It was noted this is based on the presumption that the information contained in the printout of the computer of Geelani is available in a printed publication.”

“The tenability of the second opinion of the DGMI does not appear to be relevant,” the letter concluded. The ministry thus suggested that the public availability or otherwise of the information on which Geelani was being tried made no difference to it.

Though the military intelligence’s second opinion took the steam out of the case, the Centre simply gave the story a new twist, saying the opinion was “irrelevant” and “issued without authority”.

The prosecution pleaded the Directorate-General of Military Operations was the authority that was supposed to give an opinion because troops deployment was its jurisdiction.

The court rejected the plea and said in its order of January 7 that the prosecution’s argument was “without force”. Sehgal was even critical of the controversy the Centre apparently tried to generate around the military intelligence’s second opinion.

“The prosecution fails to clarify why no inquiry has been initiated to find out why and how the letter dated 12.12.02, around which the controversy revolves, has been issued,” Sehgal said.

Central officers would have to explain the government’s stand in court tomorrow.

Ohri said that after the Centre falsely implicated Geelani, it kept on cooking up one story or the other to extend the trial.

Delhi police had also slapped IPC’s Section 292 on Geelani, saying that income-tax raids at his house had turned up 12 VCDs containing pornographic material.

Later, it was discovered that the VCDs were, in fact, found at an All-Parties Hurriyat Conference leader’s house, Ohri said.

He cited another instance of a false allegation against Geelani: The chargesheet said that the Pakistan High Commission had arranged Geelani’s stay at Mughal Sheraton Hotel on July 16, 2001, when the Agra Summit was on. At the time, Geelani was writing for a Pakistani newspaper as several other Indian journalists do.

Ohri said the hotel records show Geelani’s room was booked by the high commission, but the journalist paid the bill. “The mere fact that he stayed in a hotel room booked by Pakistan does not make him an ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) mole,” Ohri said.

He alleged that the Centre’s handling of the case had clearly exposed its “mischief”. “It’s not a question of one individual, but of the entire journalist fraternity,” Ohri said.

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