Official Secrets Act Case: RIL Officials Plead Not Guilty

New Delhi
Official Secrets Act Case: RIL Officials Plead Not Guilty
Three senior erstwhile officials of the Reliance Telecom Ltd, charged possessing secret Cabinet notes on economic issues and violating the Official Secrets Act, today pleaded not guilty and claimed trial in a Delhi court.

RIL's erstwhile Group President V Balasubramanian, 75, Vice President A N Sethuraman, 60 and General Manager (Corporate Affairs) Shankar Adawal, aged 54, claimed trial before the court of Additional Sessions Judge Narinder Kumar.

The case related to the alleged recovery of four secret Cabinet notes of RIL's interest from its office here.

The court had in March concluded that a prima facie case was made out against the RIL and its three senior officials for violation of the various provisions of the OS Act.

The court had also found prima facie material on record to infer agreement and criminal conspiracy among Balasubramanian, Sethuraman and Adawal from the manner in which the information (about the documents) had been received and communicated.

The order was passed 14 years after the FIR was lodged in 1998 when the RIL Group was not split between Ambani brothers - Mukesh and Anil.

After the three pleaded not guilty to the alleged offences, the court adjourned the matter for April 20 for apprising the RIL, the firm, of the charges against it.

The court adjourned the matter as RIL counsel sought an adjournment saying that Balasubramanian, who had been representing the firm earlier, may not be able to represent it in future.

While deciding to frame charges against the accused persons and RIL earlier, ASJ Kumar had said, "This court finds that RIL has business interest in the field of energy, telecom, petrochemicals, textiles etc and the above document containing particular information pertain to areas crucial to the interest of this company".

The court also decided to hear on April 20, RIL erstwhile VP Sethuraman's plea for exemption from personal appearance.

On October 28, 1998 search of the office premises of Balasubramanian here had led to recovery of photocopies of four secret documents.

The first document dated September 14, 1998 related to the Cabinet meeting on "Core Group on Economic Matters - Challenge of Economic Sanctions against India.

Another document was the "minutes of the 37th meeting of the core group of secretaries on disinvestment".

Yet another document, which was not not a secret document, was a letter dated September 21, 1998 from erstwhile Secretary T S Vijayaraghavan of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas to the then Secretary (Revenue) Javed A Chaudhary of the Ministry of Finance. The document pertained to "proposals in respect of rationalisation of customs and excise tariff rates for the hydrocarbon sector."
Next Story : Excise Duty, Tax Evasion of Rs 13,600 Cr Detected
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