A day's hearing in the trial of Ravi Shankaran, the arms dealer India wants extradited for his alleged role in the Naval war rooms spying scandal, was declared 'in camera' on Thursday, after the British judge cited the Official Secrets Act.
Members of the press were asked to leave court room 3 of Westminster Magistrates Court in central London on a plea by the prosecution, which was to submit secret documents as evidence. An 'in camera' trial is barred to members of the public and press.
District judge Nicholas Evans said the reason for his agreeing to the prosecution plea was that the "issues relate to matters, which, if tried in England, would be subject to the Official Secrets Act." "I am going to go in camera," the judge ruled, but added when the trial resumes on a later date the restrictions on the media will be lifted.
Meanwhile, he said, the court would spend Thursday "looking at documents."
Although both prosecution and defence lawyers would not comment, it is likely that Thursday's hearing was declared in-camera because the documents that were being presented in evidence are deemed as secret in India.
Shankaran was present at the hearing, looking dapper in a smart-casual blue jumper and jeans. Indian investigators allege the ex-Navy officer was involved in a spy scandal dating back to 2005, when documents relating to the planned purchase of equipment were said to have been leaked from the Directorate of Naval Operations. A number of suspects were arrested in 2006.
Shankaran, who is related to former Navy chief Arun Prakash, was arrested in London in April last year, four years after an Interpol notice.