Samba Spy Scandal

The Trial

On April 12, 1979 two letters were handed over to me in the afternoon. One was an official notice. My trial was to commence on 17 April; vide other, the charge sheet was served on me and I was given a copy of the S of E.

It was thus, since my arrest, I was given a copy of the charges for the first time.

On 06 April also, I was approached and asked to submit the name of any officer, to be my defending officer, but no date was specified when the trial was to commence. Accordingly I had submitted a list of such names.

Subsequently, I was told that the officers mentioned as per the list, were not available and I was asked to submit fresh names, which I did. I received a reply that none of the officers given by me in the list, were available. They asked me, `You may like to give a choice of some other officers, which may be intimated to this HQ. However, a defending officer will be provided to you in case of non availability of the officers of your choice."

Since it is a right, it becomes incumbent on the convening authorities to provide such officer given as a choice by the accused.

It was surprising that the army authorities were finding it difficult to make available one officer to me, of my choice from the list of names given. `Could this be a coincidence or is it a preplan?' I thought.

I furnished a fresh list and wrote categorically "... if still no officer of my choice is available, then I will go without one. But I shall not accept any officer who is detailed by the authorities".

As a result of this denial, I was given Lieut. Colonel JD Desai as my defending officer.

Colonel Desai, a Rimollian was an intelligent, fearless and highly outspoken officer. The added advantages for me, having him as my defending officer, were immense. No one knew me better than him. I had served under Colonel Desai as the Adjutant of the battalion. Hence he knew me very closely. Once Desai was sure that I was not involved in the espionage case, he would spare no efforts to protect me from the conspiracy. And sure enough when the time came, he proved his mettle. He did not fall in line as desired by the higher commanders. And it was probably for this reason that Colonel Desai received an indirect punishment and had to perform menial jobs of a peon. He was made to serve summons in person to the defence witnesses; a responsibility of the prosecution!

Nothing was more ridiculous than detailing a Lieut Colonel, a fairly senior rank in the army hierarchy, for a task which was always done by an office runner! No worse degradation of this rank can be visualised. Factually, it was meant to humiliate the defending officer. But did the defending officer feel so? Probably no. No one can ever humiliate a person of integrity and moral courage, by such actions. The rank of a Lieut. Colonel was abused and a precedent was set of sending an officer of a Colonel's rank to deliver the documents!

No one is to be blamed, from outside, for lowering the image of army officers. Some of them, rather most of them, like the AAG Colonel D.N. Tankha are always responsible for bringing the state of officer cadre to the lowest ebb of degradation and undermining their morality by such actions!

I hurriedly went through the S of E to find out who the witnesses were, and what they had said against me. The witnesses were :-

a) Captain Sudhir b) Gnr Aya Singh; and then there was a copy of one of my many statements obtained from me in the interrogation centre and another admission of my having made the statement.

That was the evidence according to which I was being arraigned on the charges of espionage.

For the first time the mystery of the identity of KSS was solved. KSS, in fact was Captain Sudhir, an Intelligence Officer of one of the intelligence and Field Security Companies. Looking at his personal number I found that Captain Sudhir was years junior to me.

Why did the military intelligence Directorate detail such a junior and inexperienced officer like Captain Sudhir? And then gave him so much power! I was wonderstruck.

I also found out "Mr. Chaudhary" was Major PS Solanki, an officer from the GSI (b) of MI Directorate. The only witness was Gnr Aya Singh. I read the statement and thought, so it was from the statement of Gnr Aya Singh that the confession was dictated.

It was a verbatim statement that was dictated to me with very few alterations and exceptions. In the opening para, Gnr Aya Singh had stated, that he was taken across the border by Gnr Sarwan Dass, a Pakistani agent, sometime in April 1974. Thereafter it read:

"... On my return from Pakistan I took Sepoy Ajit Singh of 527 Int and Field Security Company, across the border and introduced him to major Khan.

During one of my visits Major Khan asked me if I knew Captain Rathaur. I told him that I knew Major Rathore of 3 Dogra, but Major Khan categorically asked about Captain Rathaur from Intelligence, working in Samba. I did not know and I asked Khan if I should contact him. Major Khan declined and asked me to bring Captain Nagial instead. Captain Nagial was related to me.

On my return I checked up from my wife, who was a niece of Captain Nagial about Captain Rathaur. She told me that Rathaur was a friend of Nagial and serving in Samba as an intelligence Officer, She knew Rathaur because she had been brought up at Nagial's house.

I had found out about Nagial's willingness to work for Pakistan. Consequently on 17 July 74 we crossed over the border. While returning Nagial disclosed to me that he had been given the task of bringing Captain Rathaur. Accordingly we discussed and made a plan to lure him into smuggling and then deceive him to go across to Pakistan....."

And it was according to his plan that Nagial is alleged to have tried to lure me into smuggling and I had categorically denied to participate, terming the act as antinational and unpatriotic. Consequently a second plan, to lure me with sex and wine was made out and according to the confession, as well as Aya Singh's statements, was executed successfully.

The statement, thereafter was similar in content to the confessional statement; except that there was a variation in the route.

"..... We reached Ramgarh and from there we drove to Kese-Kamore and then turned to Palota. At Palota the taxi, as per plan, was declared defective."

"We have found out, the details given by you are wrong but whatever you have told us will not be disclosed, everything will remain with us..." I remembered the statement of Chaudhary alias Major PS Solanki, and was happy that only very little had been changed.

I do not know whether it was the generosity of interrogators or the confused state of their minds, that vital facts given by me in December 1978, did not have much changes except in the route. This was not known till the court, where while deposing, Gnr Aya took a plunge and contradicted his own statement given at the S of E that we went ahead to Bhamo Chak, a village South of Palota and near the international border. It was done on the tutoring of the interrogators. Probably they had realised their mistake and corrected it when still there was time!

I further scanned Gnr Aya Singh's statement and read : "... After that I rejoined my duty in the unit. Though I had overstayed the leave granted to me, no action was taken against me. This became possible because my Battery Commander (BC) Major Gallawat was also a Pakistan Agent. I had carried a message for him from Major Khan. In the message Major Khan had told Major Gallawat to see that no action was taken against me."

Gnr Sarwan Dass had also overstayed his leave but he was court martialed and sentenced to six years RI in military prison. I knew this because Sarwan Dass and I belonged to the same unit...

In April 1975 Sarwan Dass rejoined his duty from the military prison. One day we discussed about our spying activities. He was not happy over the money we used to get in comparison to the risk involved and he suggested that we act as double agents. But I told him that the risk involved was very serious as some of our Intelligence officers were working for Pakistan. When he asked who the officers were, I told him about Captain Rathaur. But I did not tell anything about Nagial.

Later we were arrested. I was kept in 5 Sikh Li near Jammu. One day I ran away from the unit Quarter Guard (QG) but was rearrested the following day.

In the unit QG Sepoy Ajit came to me and gave me Rs. 150/- saying that the money was sent by Captain Rathaur and that he had conveyed to me, not to give away the name of anyone... From there I was sent to Delhi for interrogation. In the course of my interrogation I disclosed the name of Captain Nagial. Thereafter, I was attached with 4/1 GR at Dharamsala. Nagial was arrested following the disclosure of his name, interrogated and attached to the same unit.

At Dharamsala Ajit once again came to me and told me that Rathaur had sent him asking me not to give away his name even if I was called for re-interrogation. He had given a promise to fight my case whole-heartedly.

But during my re-interrogation by Captain Sudhir, I disclosed to him the name of Captain Rathaur in March, 1978.

It was written in the end of his statement, "I wanted to clear my conscience as I had realised the damage we have caused to the nation."

Having read Gnr Aya's statement, I scanned what Captain Sudhir had to say.

"For the first time Captain Rathaur's name was revealed to me in March, 1978 through Gnr Aya Singh, whom I had interrogated, as one of his accomplices. I reported the matter to my superior officer.

In August, 1978, I was called to Army Hqs GSI (b). There I was told to go to the Intelligence "Residential Complex" (A refined term for the slaughter house) and to question an officer who was suspected of spying.

The next day I found out that it was Captain Rathaur. I appealed to his sense of patriotism and he came out with a "confessional" statement. Thereafter I went back and reported the matter to my superior officer and requested him that since Rathaur was willing to give a voluntary statement incriminating himself in espionage, I should be given two independent officers to witness the recording. Majors S.C. jolly and PS Solanki were detailed, and accordingly Rathaur wrote a "confessional statement" which has been attached as appendix to the S of E".

The third statement was my own recorded by Major Satpati on the night of 01/02 January 1979. It was amusing that though the statement was my own, but I did not know what the contents were! I read : "The confessional statement given by me to Captain Sudhir on 31 August 1978, comprising of 21 pages, written in my own handwriting is correct. I plead guilty. But I request that a lenient view should be taken, keeping in view my young wife and two children."

And this was the evidence which was supposed to be produced in the court! Strictly speaking the statement of Gnr Aya Singh was the only material and the basic evidence upon which the Army Chief General OP Malhotra, had ordered my arrest!

Was the DMI wise to put up the statement of Gnr Aya Singh without any consideration of the facts disclosed therein, to the Chief of the Army Staff? Was it to the experience and position of the Chief to sanction the arrest of an officer merely based upon the statement of a confirmed PAK AGENT?

Then came the question of hiring a lawyer. Once again the burden fell on my wife. To her dismay and horror she learnt that no advocate was prepared to take up the case. "Since in the army the courts do not allow the ethics of civil law, in fact it does not understand what that law is, we do not take army cases,' was the general comment of every lawyer contacted by her. However, with persistent efforts she was able to engage Mr. RP Sethi an ex Additional Advocate General of the J and K state.

The trial was to commence on 17th April and with difficulty the lawyer was able to spare some time on 15 April. He came to meet me at the place of my confinement in the evening. But Lieut Colonel SS Sohi the CO treated the counsel very badly. The counsel was so humiliated and harassed that he refused to take up the case. However, the situation was controlled by the wise and timely intervention of Colonel Desai, but it proved a great set back. The counsel never once came to meet me in custody. I could not brief the lawyer properly in the preparation and arguments of the case. It was not that Mr. Sethi left any stone unturned to prove the charges as false and baseless. He was successful in proving my innocence beyond any shadow of doubt. Still a handicap was created.

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 |