The alleged misuse of the Official Secrets Act (OSA) by the government authorities and abuse of “sahayaks” in the armed forces came under judicial scanner on Monday with the Supreme Court issuing a notice to the Centre over the issues on a petition.
A bench headed by justice J Chelameswar said the petition, filed by scribe Poonam Agrawal, needed to be examined.
Agarwal is facing charges under the special law for doing a sting operation.
Senior advocate Gopal Subramanium arguing for Agrawal alleged that in the journalist’s case the provision had been misused. The law could not be invoked against her to protect “delinquent Army officers,” he said.
Agarwal, working as an associate editor at The Quint, did a sting operation in which Lance Naik Roy Mathew criticised the sahayak system in the Army. Mathew allegedly committed suicide following the release of the video.
Nashik police booked Agarwal under OSA and various IPC sections, including criminal trespass and abetment to suicide.
Agarwal challenged the FIR and pleaded there should be guidelines to prevent abuse of the OSA, which not only impinges upon fundamental rights but also curbs journalistic freedom.
The petitioner also pleaded that directives be given for an appropriate inquiry into the alleged misuse of the “sahayak” system in the Army.
Lower ranking staffers of Army were being forced to do menial and domestic work for their seniors, the petition alleged.
“The Army and its personnel, being citizens of India, are under equal constitutional obligation and duty to protect and promote a fair system of administration of justice through an unimpeded investigation and cannot be a party to its undermining and destruction in order to ward off scrutiny of any wrongdoings by its delinquent officers by journalists or responsible citizenry, by seeking to invoke draconian provisions of the OSA and the IPC,” the petition said.