More than a year after the Navy war room leak story broke, it now emerges that middlemen had easy access to the corridors of power in South Block and could walk home with secret information pertaining to national security. Investigations have also revealed that there’s a larger ring of “compromised officials” in the armed forces and the MoD.
The scandal began to unfold when the IAF put Wing Commander SL Surve under surveillance. A raid at his residence led to the recovery of a pen drive in which confidential information was smuggled out of the war room. Subsequent investigations revealed the involvement of naval officers and a court of inquiry established that a few naval officers had compromised the security of classified information and jeopardised the interests of the state.
It later emerged that Commander Kulbushan Parashar, who was arrested along with four others in April 2006, procured information from defence officers and passed it on to arms dealer Abhishek Verma. Verma is an associate of Ravi Shankaran, navy chief Arun Prakash’s nephew and a key accused in the case. The leak is also being linked to the Rs 13,500-crore Scorpene submarine deal.
The Navy dismissed three officials last October by invoking the president’s pleasure doctrine after it found that classified information had been leaked from Directorate of Naval Operations to two former naval officers — Parashar and Shankaran. Those packed home were Captain Kashyap Kumar, Commander Vinod Kumar Jha and Commander Vijendra Rana.
The defence ministry asked the CBI on February 18, 2006, to probe the leak and a case was registered on March 20. After nationwide searches on April 6 this year, the CBI arrested five persons including three former naval officials — Parashar, VK Jha and Vinod Rana. Fresh raids were conducted on June 23 at the residences of Abhishek Verma, a few serving and retired defence officials and three MoD under secretaries.
In its chargesheet filed on July 3, the CBI says 7,000 pages of classified information were compromised in the war-room leak. It maintains that the information leaked from the Navy war room and the air defence directorate in Air HQ was sensitive and has a direct bearing on the country's security.