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War room leak: Ministry's claims nailed

A CBI probe suggests highly sensitive data was illegally procured by outsiders during the Navy war room leak.

india Updated: Nov 12, 2006 22:37 IST

Contrary to claims by the defence ministry that only commercial information was leaked in the high-profile naval war room case, a CBI probe suggests highly sensitive data was illegally procured by outsiders.

The ministry, which was in the news last year over leaks from the war room or Directorate of Naval Operations, has been maintaining that the matter pertained to only information with commercial value.

"It has been clearly established by the board (of inquiry, constituted by the Navy) that there has been leakage of information of commercial value to unauthorised persons," a ministry spokesman said in a release on September 29, 2005.

It also said "it is reaffirmed that there has been no compromise on information relating to operational matters".

However, the CBI chargesheet filed against Delhi-based businessman Abishek Verma last month has a different story to tell. The list of 62 documents appended to the chargesheet shows the acquisition plans of the Indian Air Force and the minutes of a meeting of the Defence Procurement Board, the country's highest body for purchasing defence equipment, were also leaked.

The sequence of events also raises questions over the delay by the defence ministry in handing over the case to the CBI for prosecution of civilians involved in procuring information from the war room.

Despite this, the case was handed over to the CBI only on February 18 this year, nearly five months after that statement. During this period, one of the main accused in the case—Ravi Shankaran, the kin of former Navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash—slipped out of the country on November 11 last year from Mumbai international airport and has not been traced despite the reovocation of his passport.

Then Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is now the external affairs minister, had said in Parliament that the Navy's board of inquiry had established that there had been a leak of information, primarily of commercial nature, to unauthorised persons.

In his suo moto statement in Lok Sabha on March 21 this year, Mukherjee had named formal Naval officer Kulbushan Parashar as the person who received classified information pertaining to the Directorate of Naval Operations.