Samba Spy Scandal


On the same evening of the verdict my wife was returning, depressed, dispirited and drained having met me, when Lieut Colonel SS Sohi contacted and relayed to her a message from the "top"!

`Nothing has gone wrong as yet,' said the colonel, `the punishment can be set aside. "People" from the army Hqs have approached and asked me to convey, it to you... Its upto you to advice your husband. Look here, you're young and you have two small children - 14 years is not a small punishment. You have to see to your future and avail of the opportunity being offered to you.'

The condition for setting aside the punishment was that I should depose against other arrested officers and men.

Who were the people in AHQs passing the directions? Was such a direction in the knowledge of the Army Chief? If yes, then did he expect to take an advantage of the situation in which I and my family were put purposely?

If the planning was made only for this purpose, then disappointment was awaiting them. My wife had made up her mind to play a game of deceit against the MI Directorate. Without committing herself directly, she replied to the Colonel that it was not possible for her to advice her husband within the short time given to her for the meeting.

The very next day the time for the meeting was increased from half an hour to 4 hours a day, which was always recorded in the visitors book; thus the first step to create evidence to that effect, was achieved.

Without knowing the real cause for increasing the visiting time I was moved, considering that it was a sympathetic gesture on part of the CO.

My wife was again contacted by Captain Sudhir at the residence and in the presence of Lieut Colonel SS Sohi, within four or five days of the verdict. She was told by Captain Sudhir that if I cooperated with the authorities in deciding the cases of the arrested officers and men, then I would, after the cases were over, be helped in settling down in any foreign country of my choice.

My wife had confided in the Defence Counsel, who had supported the course of action she had proposed, `I will then take up the first case where Rathaur will come to depose on behalf of the Prosecution. But before that you obtain the assurance given by them in writing,' the counsel had advised.

However, after a planning of nearly two weeks when she confided in me, I was enraged. `How did you conceive this idea? Do you know the miseries of the persons against whom I would be deposing in the S of E? Listen it takes two to three months thereafter for the case to come up in the court. Would that person be alive till the start of his trial? No. Swaran no. I cannot do that even if it was for the benefit for all of us. Since I have and am suffering, I know what misery is. I wouldn't like even my enemy to suffer this way. It would be the most heinous crime - Believe in God. God alone knows everything. So let him alone convert the dirt into purity.'

Probably the course adopted by her was the best, but I refused. I became very furious when I learnt that proposal was initiated by Colonel SS Sohi on same day of the verdict. I wanted and asked for an interview with the Corps Commander Lieut General Kanwar Chiman Singh.

The Interview was however granted only after a period of two months. On October 22, I was marched up to the Corps Commander. Present during the interview were, Lieut Colonel SS Sohi the CO, Lieut Colonel DN Tankha the AAG and the Brigadier General Staff (BGS).

`Sir, before explaining some of the facts about the case, I would like to ask one question from the Corps Commander, `I said.

`Yes, go ahead,' conceded the General.

`Was the GCM that tried and held me guilty, an eyewash to show to the outside world that I was given a fair trial and that it was the GCM which had found me guilty?... I request the Corps Commander to give me a single ground on which the GCM has held me guilty.'

`I have not read the proceedings, so what can I say?,' replied the General.

`Then I request the General to read and show me any ground where the court could have found me guilty.' I said.

Thereafter I explained to the General in detail all the circumstances from the time I was sent on temporary duty to Delhi till the day of my verdict. Apprising the Corps Commander, I said, `And sir, what can be more demeaning, degrading and heinous than trying to subvert the mind of a lady by advising her to press her husband for deposing falsely against other innocents; trying to take advantage of the unfavourable situation...?'

`But who did that?' Asked the General in surprise.

`Ask Lieut. Colonel Sohi,' I replied, indicating with my eyes towards the CO.

`No, sir. I did not tell her,' replied the CO.

`Well he says he didn't,' said the General.

`He? Of course he will deny. It requires guts to admit one's misdeeds. In any case has he not done so already, while deposing in the court? He has denied everything that was done in violation of the rules and regulations, even when there were documents to prove the facts denied by him,' I replied, looking contemptuously at the CO, and then turning to the AAG, I continued, `and, sir, why only Colonel Sohi for that matter, ask your AAG, what he has done? Why, first of all did he issue a fake letter to my wife?'

There was no answer from anyone.

`And, sir, even after one year of my arrest and the verdict of the GCM, I am still subjected to inhuman mental torture. I am being kept locked up day and night in a small room like a caged animal. Why? I request you to kindly put an end, at least of this dehumanised approach and allow the door of my room to be open, if not at night at least during the day.'

The General obviously was not aware of this locking business. Looking surprised he asked the AAG, `Why?... Is he correct in saying that?'

`Sir, the window of his room is kept open,'

`I am not asking about the window,' said the General, `is the door of his room locked?' he asked in a raised voice.

`I think, sir there are orders on the matter,' replied the AAG.

`Stop thinking and better show me the order,'demanded the General.

Whether there were orders or not I never came to know, nor did I know whether the orders were shown to the Corps Commander or not. The only thing I knew was that I continued to live locked inside the room.

Towards the end of the interview, I reiterated my innocence and said that if the authorities could prove my presence at Samba even for a single day between 17 July and 14 August 1974, then I would accept the verdict of the GCM as it was, without taking up the matter anywhere. Even if they cannot prove the presence, I offered another option. Let any taxi be driven on the route as described by the Prosecution's "main witness" which allegedly, had been taken, when they planned and deceived me across to Pakistan.

`Aya Singh alleged to have driven me in July / August i.e. during the monsoon. If a taxi can be driven even now, that is in October, I shall forfelt my right to appeal against the verdict. And if this also cannot be done, I still offer a third option, check whose post "Kandral" is. If its found to be a Pakistani post then I will keep quiet.'

The interview lasted for two hours and I put the Corps Commander, who had taken over the command from Lt. General DK Chandorkar in early July, into the full picture, who I found had been misled from the true facts.

On asking, I submitted the points brought out during the interview, in writing to the GOC. I also, on the advice of the General filed an appeal under AA Section 164(1) to the confirming authorities. The interview was held in a cordial atmosphere, so I thought.

I was taken to Jammu in early September as a Prosecution witness to depose in the S of E Major SP Sharma, the alleged "ring leader" of the gang. I, despite my request, was not told where and why I was taken from Nagrota.

In the S of E, I once again brought out the circumstances under which I was forced to involve not only Major Sharma, but so many other people, including Captain Rana.

During his cross examination Major Sharma asked, `Major Jolly was your best friend. He always praised you with me and other officers for the good work you were doing in Samba. In fact he always came to brief and debrief your sources and went back happily with good reports. Before leaving he invariably came to meet me in my office and said so about the reports. Then tell me Rathaur, why did he first of all accept to interrogate you and then turned against you as you have just revealed?'

`Well, sir, I have the reasons, but it may be premature to tell at this stage of our case. In fact why he chose to interrogate me, seems a mystery to me as well.

`Why should Major Jolly have forced you and Captain Rana to implicate me and in fact the entire Brigade? What could be the motive?' asked Major Sharma.

`Let me put it straight, it was not only I and Captain Rana, who were forced to implicate others, but many more. It'll not be absured if I said that you were lucky not to have reached the stage of the torture which we underwent or else you would also have been forced to implicate other people like we were.... And why was it done? According to me it appears to be a part of some mysterious designs... and if the mystery is solved, it will be found to be sinister and damaging to the morale of the army...'

`And what is the mystery according to you?' asked Major Sharma.

The question was objected to by the officer recording the S of E. However, Major Sharma argued, he had the right to ask any such question from a witness which had direct bearing upon his defence, and the question was thus allowed.

I answered the question.

`Well, sir, it has been amply proved that Gnrs Ays Singh and Sarwan Dass are trained agents of Pakistan. The fact has also been admitted by them while deposing against me in the court. Both were apprehended on the information of IB for spying against India. From the JIC Jammu they were taken over by the Army authorities for further interrogation. However, the army authorities chose not to charge them for spying Instead, they were charged with minor offences like desertion from service and accordingly the punishment was awarded to them. Surprisingly, their punishment was not only suspended, they were retained in service, but shocking as it would be to learn, that they have been absorbed in the Indian Army Intelligence Corps! Presently both of them are serving as orderlies of the interrogators. And, sir it was on the word of these two profligates that a havoc has been wrought in the lives of so many people of the army by the MI Directorate... here the mystery deepens. While analysing, two things stand out clearly. First, both the gentlemen have been successful in misleading the interrogators that their word became law... Second, the aspect of mystery is that someone or all the members of the interrogating team have been bought by the Pakistan's Intelligence masters and it was on their direction that the present scandal has been created by the interrogators with the following motives:

a) To obtain pardon for their co-agents from the army authorities.

b) To create frustration-demoralisation and a sense of insecurity among the Indian troops serving on the border areas; and

c) To present their image to the army and the public as patriots.

`Rathaur, you have said that you were pressurised and given other incentives to depose against other arrested personnel; Do you think similar pressure and incentives could be given to other people who are arrested?' questioned Major Sharma.

`Yes, I know at least two of them - Captain Rana and Havildar Raghubir Singh. This fact was told to me by Captain Sudhir, the "James Bond" among the interrogating team. There can be more people but I don't know about them... However, I know from my personal experience that "they" are very apt at the job. They aim at absolute demoralisation of the intended victim through unending methods of their tactic. To quote the news about my death, published in the papers, it was also a part of the same tactic. It was purposely done with an aim, which obviously was to pressurise their victim by showing him the news and threatening him with similar consequences if the victim did not relent to their pressure. And, sir, in that ruinous state of physical and mental health, to what limits of immorality can a person fall, I know fully well by now. Some others including you would have known, had the scandal not become public.'

Later, in January 1980, I was taken to Delhi where the Joint Interrogation was carried out by a joint team headed by Shri VK Kaul, the Deputy Director of the Intelligence Bureau. During the Interrogation, I once again brought out all the circumstances under which confession was dictated to me and I was made to implicate other innocent people.

`What are the motives? Could the interrogating officers of the Army Intelligence have created the scandal for the sake of obtaining promotion and medals?', was the question asked by Shri Kaul at the end of the interrogation which lasted for four days, culminating with "lie detecting" machine tests.

`Sir, you may be right in thinking so. But I don't see any reason in that; for no person in his healthy mind would create such a scandal just for the sake of promotions and medals,' was my reply.

I hinted to the Deputy Director the possibility of someone's involvement with Pak FIU from the interrogating team. I supported my suspicion through some facts.

Six months had passed since the GCM had given its verdict. But it had not yet been confirmed. Nothing the delay, I became hopeful for a favourable decision by the Army Chief. The fact generating the hope was that while in Delhi I had found out about the proceedings which were supposed to be confirmed by the Defence Minister, and were still lying in the AHQs.

They cannot afford to send the proceedings to the Defence Minister for fear of exposure, I thought.

If they could not afford to expose the proceeding to the Defence Ministry, they could very well afford to confirm the punishment themselves. It was a fact that was not known to me.

It was 16 February 1980, the day of full eclipse of the sun, the eclipse which shadowed my life too. I was marched in, without being informed in advance, into the office of the Corps Commander.

The Corps Commander read to me the "confirmation of the verdict" passed by the GCM, by the Army Chief.

The stars and the insignia of my regiment, of which I was once a proud officer, were plucked away, like the feathers of a dead bird, one after the other. I was cashiered.

I now stood like an ordinary convict, yet smiling at the irony of fate. The army had after all rewarded me. It was an entirely different matter if the reward was in the form of 14 years of rigorous imprisonment!

My wife was at home and she was to come to Nagrota same day when I was cashiered. Since the army authorities had decided to send me to Delhi, Central Jail Tihar, the some day, I made a request that I should as per the established rules, be sent to the nearest jail; that was Central Jail Jammu or my despatch order to Delhi should be postponed by a day, so that I could meet and advice my wife. But the request was turned down. And rightly so because there is no place for "human emotion in the army".

It was early morning of 17 February 1980 when I entered the main portal of the Tihar Jail to find myself in the company of people about whom I had always thought of with pity. And now I was one of them, to be pitied.

From the jail I applied for a copy of my trial proceedings and it was only after my repeated requests that I heard from the authorities, "due to the safety and security of the State the proceedings cannot be given."

In the absence of the proceedings I prepared an appeal and forwarded it to the President of India with copies to other wings of the government concerned, and hopefully awaited their decision, for a long time.

During his visit to Tihar Jail, the Minister of State for Home Affairs, Shri YS Makwana met me and I briefly brought out the atrocities which had been perpetrated by the army upon me and the others.

A few days after his visit, a little interest was shown by the Ministry. A copy of the appeal submitted to the President was asked for the perusal of the Minister. The same alongwith fresh representation was forwarded, but that was the end. Nothing further was heard.

Forwarding another representation to Smt. Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister, I wrote, "... That spying is such a word as to inspire immediate feelings of disgust and hostility in the heart of any moral and upright citizen. Such feelings are entirely justified and more intensely directed against the perpetrator when such an act is committed against a nation, by a citizen of the same. Such a situation is for more serious in implication because the internal security, well being and morale of the nation as a whole, is at stake. That value of the creation of such a situation by agents of a hostile country need hardly be stated. Obviously if such a situation were to exist, it would be the aim of such agents to implicate those more trusted and worthy members of the said nation. In order to create and maintain such a situation in a constitutionally democratic nation, it would obviously demand a great deal of non-constitutional jugglery among the higher echelons of power - Such statements are proven in their entirety by a brief examination of my case, the copy of which as an appeal was submitted to your honourable self on 14 April 1980. During the course of the Samba case, the then Defence Minister Shri Jagjivan Ram in answers to questions raised in the Parliament, replied that the officers implicated were (a) found spying as per the evidence which then existed (b) were fairly treated and no torture was being meted out to them, and that the officers implicated would be given the right to appeal to higher courts. Even the briefest examination of the procedure would prove the above statements to be baseless, the scars upon my body serving only to amplify this fact. It seems to me to be highly disturbing that such a prominent member of the government could be so misinformed by his advisors. Subsequent exposure in the press and unearthed several disturbing questions in regard to the case and thus for no answers have been proffered by the government. Such a silence would seem to aggravate the situation, as such "scandals" never die lying down. The question, why should senior officers seek to discredit and falsely implicate fellow officers who are innocent, is a serious question which needs to be officially answered, if the perpetrators of the whole affair are to be thwarted in their designs and the morale of the Indian army is to be restored. That the case has come to public light almost ensured the failure of such designs, but if the poignant question remains unanswered then the instigators will remain in our midst and their success will be ensured. The argument that civil involvement in military matters is not conducive to the discipline and security of the nation, is rendered invalid in view of the consequences of involvement specially in the present case. That there are glaring examples of the army misusing the powers vested in them eg. The dismissal of so many officers implicated in the case was done summarily, indicating a basic lack of evidence on which to form a case and press charges. Or contrawise to argue that sufficient evidence did exist but that the cases were subjected to the Army Act three years limitation clause is also refutable, considering that the alleged offences constituted crimes under civil jurisdiction. All would seem to amplify the inference that the army authorities were reluctant to expose the affairs in the entirety to civil authorities and the public, thereby losing the veil of secrecy which enshrines this whole affair...

.... Every citizen owes part of himself to the nation as a whole. In the case of a soldier, a moral obligation is conferred upon him to sacrifice his life if necessary in the service of the nation. However, if the blood of loyal and innocent people is allowed to flow purposelessly, then the stains will blemish the reputation of the nation to eternity.

With this, it is my humble submission and request that:

a) The case of Havildar Ram Sarup's death be reopened and investigated by an impartial tribunal.

b) The Samba Spy Case be investigated in its entirety by an impartial tribunal, headed by a judicial authority.

c) After ascertaining the facts of my case submitted in appeal to the President of India, with a copy to your Hon'ble self I further request that:

i) I be honourably exonerated immediately and forthwith or

ii) I be given a special right of appeal to the Supreme Court of India;


iii) An order be given to have my case retried in any civil court in India.

In conclusion, I may say that I am one voice for the many innocents, affected in this case and that on behalf of them all and myself, I state that our eternal gratitude is extended to your Hon'ble self for intervening and alleviating the suffering of many innocents and at the same time bringing this whole disreputable affair to an honourable conclusion."

Nothing was heard about the fate of this petition. May be the Prime Minister was too busy looking into the Assam and Moradabad problem, which had then engulfed the country.

In early December 1980, I received a brief letter from the Defence Ministry. The appeal was rejected.

Meanwhile I had appeared as a DW in the case of Rana and once again had brought to the light, all the facts to the members of the GCM. However Rana, as expected, was also sentenced for an equal term i.e. 14 years. He immediately filed a petition in the Delhi High Court, pending confirmation and obtained stay orders. Seeing the little success achieved by Rana, I also filed my petition.

While awaiting the decision of the High Court, I wrote and received a reply from Rana, which was very moving, and upon reading which, I tasted the tears once again, after a long time. By the time the reply was received, the High Court had given its decision. It had unheld the verdict of the GCM.

The important features of the judgement were, "... if error was committed in the rightful exercise of authority, we cannot correct it," in reply to the plea of the defence cousel that findings of the court martial were vitiated because of various illegalities in recording the confession and the admissibility of evidence. The bench further observed, "If there was legal evidence available on which a finding could be given, the sufficiency or otherwise is for the authority to decide and this court cannot substitute its opinion for that of the court martial." It also said, "Special considerations are applied where procedural errors had been committed by the authorities administering military discipline. The courts have always shown a marked aversion from seeking to interfere with the proceedings of military authorities except where the rights of an individual have been infringed." The court ruled, "where the court martial acts within jurisdiction, habeas corpus would not issue to interfere with its decision on the ground of mere insufficiency of evidence or irregularity or procedure, except where there has been no hearing at all or the rules of natural justice had not been followed."

What is natural justice?

The court, urged the government to consider whether armed forces personnel convicted by a court martial could be permitted another forum of appeal, apart from making representations to the Chief of Staff or the Union Government. Mr. Justice Rajinder Sachar and Mr. Justice R.N. Aggarwal observed that some more liberty and safeguard may be provided in the Army Act so that armed personnel are assured that objective considerations are given to their case. Calling for a second look at the Army Act, the division bench noted that, though the soldier has to perform and maintain a high degree of discipline, some exceptions may be permissible in the case of military men. Yet it may add to the satisfaction and a greater sense of confidence in the fairness of procedure to members of the armed forces if there was at least one review of those serious cases in which punishments have been given by the court martial. In Britain, from where the Indian Army Act had been copied, there is a provision of a right to appeal where the conviction involves a sentence of death or if a court of appeal thinks that the finding of the court martial is unreasonable or cannot be supported on evidence or involves a wrong decision on a question of law or any ground or there is a miscarriage of justice. No such right can be exercised in India in view of Article 136(2) of the Constitution. Article 136(2) states no petition to the Supreme Court would lie against any judgement determination, sentence or order passed or made by any court of the tribunal constituted by or under any law relating to the armed forces. The court pointed out that under the uniform code of military justice in the United States, a court of military appeal has been established which reviews all cases of death sentence. They said, that some more reforms had been brought about and incorporated in the Military Justice Act, 1968, which brings many of the provisions of civilian criminal justice in military justice. There was demand in our country also, for changes in the Army Act. It would be in all fairness, if a second look at some of the features of the Army Act is given by the concerned authorities."

It was more than apparent that the court was convinced about the gross unfairness and injustice given by the army courts, where the errors had been committed and the procedures had been violated, yet the High Court could do nothings but uphold the verdict.

Taking courage, after reading the book of Shri BM Sinha, "The Samba Spy Case", I wrote a personal letter to Mr. Charan Singh, the erstwhile care taker Prime Minister, and the leader of the opposition, expecting a favourable action from him. However, this front also proved quiet. And here to quote Sinha in his book, while analysing the case. "... If even 10 percent, of what is being alleged, is true, then every Indian should hang his head in shame..." But that was all!

Does it prove that, Indians have no head to hang or they have no shame? In either case, therefore, no head can be hanged: let the loyal, sincere and innocent wither away, so that the nation may flourish.

Preface | Temporary Duty | The Move Order | The Train Journey | The Reception | The Army HQ | Close Arrest | The Interrogation | Background | The Intelligence | The Security | The Devil | The Confession | The Foundation Stone | The Great Detectives | The Corroborations | An Approver | Confrontaions | Hibernations | Leading to the Trails | Fairy Tales | Into the Fire | Army Procedure | As a Winess | Meeting with Family | Habeas Corpus | Death of Democracy | The Trial | Prosecution Case | The Defence | The Press | Rebuttal | Aftermath | Mystery | Postscript | Annexure I | Home |