Delhi HC grants bail to freelance journalist arrested in espionage case

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New Delhi [India], December 4 (ANI): The Delhi High Court on Friday granted bail to freelance journalist Rajeev Sharma, who was arrested under the Official Secret Act by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police, for allegedly passing sensitive information to the Chinese intelligence.
A bench of Justice Yogesh Khanna, while granted bail, said that the petitioner is entitled to default bail as the chargesheet has not been filed within the stipulated time of 60 days.
“The applicant herein is admitted on bail on his executing a personal bond of Rs 1,00,000 with a surety of the like amount. The petitioner is directed to provide his contact number and address to the SHO concerned as also he shall keep open his location app in his mobile at all time and shall not leave the NCR of Delhi without seeking permission of the trial court,” the bench said.
The bench noted that under the Official Secret Acts, for which the petitioner is being tried, though entails punishment which may extend to 14 years but the section does not talk of minimum period of sentence and thus does not pass the test of a clear period of 10 years or more for consideration of granting bail.
The period of challan, in this case, would be 60 days and thus the impugned order passed by the Metropolitan Magistrate being illegal is set aside and the petition is allowed, it said.
Rajeev Sharma, through senior advocate Dr Adish C Aggarwala and advocate Aditya Singh, had approached the Delhi High Court challenging trial court order which had dismissed Sharma’s plea moved under Section 167(2) CrPC to release him on bail, on the ground that 60 days period has expired since his arrest and the chargesheet has not been filed.
Whereas, standing counsel for the state argued that where there is no minimum punishment prescribed and the maximum punishment is more than 10 years then the chargesheet can be filed beyond 60 days but before 90 days from the date of arrest.
The trial court, which had last month dismissed the default bail plea, had noted that considering the nature of extensive investigation required in such serious offences, the court has no hesitation in holding that the right of default bail has not yet accrued in favour of the accused as the punishment under Section 3 of the Official Secret Act will squarely be covered by Section 167 (2)(a)(i) where the maximum period of custody will be 90 days and not 60 days.
The trial court had also noted that the object of the Official Secrets Act should also be kept in mind which is National Security, where the actions which involve helping an enemy State against India are strongly condemned.
According to the police, a Chinese woman and her Nepalese associate were also arrested for paying Sharma large amounts of money routed through shell companies. The Special Cell had said Sharma, a resident of Pitampura in New Delhi, was “found to be in possession of some defence-related classified documents”. (ANI)