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Sting operation case: Scribe moves SC for probe into jawan’s death

Wednesday, Apr 12, 2017,12:27 IST By anju A A A

New Delhi | A woman scribe, booked under the stringent Official Secrets Act for carrying out a sting operation inside an army camp in Nasik, today moved the Supreme Court seeking a court-monitored probe into the mysterious death of a 33-year-old jawan.

Delhi-based journalist Poonam Agarwal, working with a news portal, had entered the camp and carried out the sting operation on the alleged abuse of the “buddy” system in the army by videographing Roy Mathew, a jawan from Kerala who was found dead last month.

Nasik police lodged an FIR against Agarwal and retired army official Deep Chand under IPC provisions and Sections 3 (spying) and 7 (interfering with officers of police or members of the armed forces of the Union) of the Official Secrets Act (OSA).

Besides asking for a court-monitored probe, the plea, filed through lawyers Prashant Kumar and Anindita Pujari, has sought issuance of guidelines to prevent “abuse” of the provisions of the OSA.

The plea said that the issue was related to “manipulation” of evidence, “hushing up” of criminal offences, the cause of “journalistic freedom” and the “right to freedom of speech and expression”.

It pleaded for issuance of suitable guidelines or directions giving a strict and controlling interpretation to the provisions of Official Secrets Act, 1923 to prevent its abuse and bring them in line with the scheme of the Constitution.

It said that the provisions of the Act were invoked in order to prevent the media and citizens to find out the truth.

“The immediate provocation for invoking of the draconian provisions under the OSA against the petitioners is to scuttle and prevent a fair investigation into unnatural death of one of the jawans who figured in the broadcast clip aired on February 24, 2017 with all faces blurred…

“His highly decomposed body was found on March 2, 2017 hanging for four days in an abandoned barracks nearly 200 metres from his living quarters in Deolali camp,” it said.

The plea said Mathew went missing after he made a last call to his wife on February 25, 2017 and two days prior to his body being found, his reporting officer called the family to dissuade them from lodging a missing persons report.

The plea also sought a direction to the Centre to conduct an inquiry on “misuse” of sahayak (buddy) system in the army.

Deep Chand, who brought the journalist to the army area and got the sting operation done, be protected from physical harm, harassment and retributive action, it said Poonam had allegedly entered Heig Lines in Deolali camp without the permission of the authorities and filmed the premises besides carrying out a sting operation on Mathew and other jawans on February 24 in which she is said to have asked leading questions.

Mathew was found hanging from the ceiling of a room on March 2.

The police had also recovered a diary from his barracks with some scribblings in his mother tongue fearing possible action from his superiors, the plea said

A case of accidental death was then registered by Nashik Police under section 174 (police to inquire and report on suicide) of the CrPC.

Mathew went missing on February 25 after he purportedly figured in the expose by the portal with the video showing soldiers walking dogs of senior army officials or taking their children to school.