No hearing for Navy War Room leak case accused after 10 years

For close to a decade a former Captain in the Indian Navy has been poring over the cause list of the Delhi High Court in the hope of finding a mention of his writ petition challenging his dismissal, but in vain.

New Delhi: For close to a decade a former Captain in the Indian Navy has been poring over the cause list of the Delhi High Court in the hope of finding a mention of his writ petition challenging his dismissal, but in vain.

Kashyap Kumar was dismissed from service in October 2005 in exercise of the rarely used President's "pleasure doctrine" under Article 311 without facing a court-martial after his name surfaced in the Navy War Room leak case. He filed a writ petition in November 2005 challenging the decision.

He was named in the FIR after the CBI took over the probe but the agency did not charge sheet him for want of evidence.

In fact, the agency even filed a status report in 2006, saying "No connection between him (sacked Captain Kumar) and Kulbushan Parashar (one of the main accused in the case) and other key players in the conspiracy has been established so far during investigation".

"...He (Kumar) was not arrested and charge sheeted so far," the status report had said.

Six people, including Ravi Shankaran, a relative of former Navy Chief Admiral Arun Prakash and Delhi-based businessman Abhishek Verma were charge sheeted by the CBI in 2006.

Besides these two, former Navy officer Kulbhushan Prashar, former Commander Vijender Rana, sacked commander V K Jha and former IAF Wing Commander Sambha Jee L Surve are facing trial in the case for criminal conspiracy under IPC besides various provisions of Official Secrets Act.

Kumar had a reason to smile when the premier probe agency did not charge sheet him, hoping his ordeal was about to end. However, the seemingly endless wait for justice continues despite a request for early hearing made to the High Court in January this year.

The agonising wait for justice notwithstanding, Kumar soldiered on, doing low-paying jobs for Rs 20,000 a month and even ploughing farms owned by others to sustain his family.

Last December, after he lost yet another job because of the taint from the past, Kumar moved an application before the Delhi High Court for an early hearing of his appeal against dismissal. In his petition, the 54-year-old former soldier said he has to look after his two children and wife.

"The pendency of the petition before this court, particularly in view of the fact that no material against the Petitioner (Kumar) has been brought to light even after thorough investigations by independent agencies, is causing grave prejudice to the petitioner.

"Although the CBI in its status report before this court has stated that the CBI has found nothing against the Petitioner ? yet, the Petitioner is facing issues during the course of his present employment/employability as employers need a clean chit in this regard. For this purpose, the present petition, in the interest of justice, may be expedited so that the Petitioner may satisfy this court about the unfairness meted to the Petitioner and the Petitioner may vindicate his stand before this Court," his petition reads.

Justices Pradeep Nandrajog and Pratibha Rani of the Delhi High Court dismissed the petition on January 6, saying "The appeal is at effective serial number 56 in the category of regular hearing matters and this early hearing is declined for the reason the writ petition is likely to be heard within next four to five weeks". It has not come up for hearing as yet.

Kumar has neither lost hope for justice nor faith in the country's judicial system.

"I have faith in the judiciary and hope the matter will be heard soon," he said.

The CBI, in the meantime, said it examined all the files and questioned some Navy officers regarding the role of the sacked captain in the leak but failed to get any convincing answers about his involvement. They got a routine reply that Kumar stood dismissed under Section 15 of the Indian Navy Act, an action, which has already been challenged in the Delhi High Court.

Kumar was dismissed under the Section 15 of the Navy Act wherein an accused official has no right to present his case or see the allegations that have been levelled against him.