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War room | Navy plays down panic reports

They also sought to play down reports of panic in the naval establishment.

india Updated: Jul 06, 2006 03:22 IST

The Navy has distanced itself from a federal probe into the leakage of classified information from its war room, saying the issue was now "beyond" its "purview".

"We are no longer in the know (of how the investigations are proceeding). The issue is now beyond our purview," sources in the naval headquarters said.

They also sought to play down reports of "panic" in the naval establishment after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said in its chargesheet in the war room leak case that 7,000 pages of strategic data relating to the operational plans of the three services had been compromised between 2002 and 2005.

"We conducted a probe and came to certain conclusions. The CBI was then brought into the picture and has come to certain conclusions. We understand the Intelligence Bureau is also in the picture. Let the evidence be presented in court. That's when the true picture will emerge," the sources said.

"It is a fact that some information has been leaked but this does not impact on our operational preparedness or that of the other two services," they asserted.

The CBI, which had begun investigating the case in February at the behest of Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, had conducted countrywide raids in April, leading to the arrest of five people, including three officers who had been dismissed from the Navy.

In June, the CBI conducted raids at 19 places across the country on the premises of 14 people, including four navy officers, two army officers, three defence ministry officials and arms dealer Abhishek Verma, who is said to have been involved in the sale of French Scorpene submarines to the Indian Navy.

It has now been established that the raid on one of the naval officers was a case of mistaken identity.

While no arrests were made after the second round of raids, the CBI filed its chargesheet soon after.

The case had broken last year after classified information was found in the possession of retired Wing Commander SL Surve, a former joint director (Air Defence) at air headquarters.

The Navy then carried out a probe after it was alleged that nine people were involved in leaking classified information relating to its planned purchase of a wide array of sophisticated equipment from its Directorate of Naval Operations, better known as the war room.

The Navy dismissed three officers in October 2005 after the probe concluded they had sold classified information for commercial benefits.

They included Captain Kashyap Kumar, who headed the Directorate of Naval Operations at the time of the leak and was described as its "mastermind", as also Commanders Virender Rana and Vinod Kumar Jha were dismissed for their involvement in the leak.

The two commanders were among the five people the CBI arrested in April. The other three were retired Lt Cdr Kulbhushan Parashar, Mukesh Bajaj and Rajrani Jaiswal.

Among those charged in the case is retired Lt Cdr Ravi Shankaran, a relative of navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash. The CBI says Shankaran is an arms dealer and an alleged recipient of the sensitive information that was stolen from the war room.

Interpol, on the request of the CBI, has already issued a red corner notice against Shankaran, who was initially thought to be in London but whose whereabouts now are not known.

The Navy Chief had offered to resign after the scandal broke but the government had firmly turned this down.

According to highly placed sources, the CBI is under increasing pressure from several quarters to act, especially after media reports sought to suggest a connection between the war room leaks and alleged kickbacks in the Scorpene submarine deal.

The names of those mentioned as end users in the war room leak, such as Shankaran and Parashar, frequently appeared in the submarine deal as well.