Gunner Suicide: SC Notice To Centre On Plea By Journalist Against Invocation Of Official Secrets Act

Gunner Suicide: SC Notice To Centre On Plea By Journalist Against Invocation Of Official Secrets Act

The Supreme Court today issued notice to the Centre and Army on a petition filed by a journalist  booked under Official Secrets Act (OSA) by Nashik police in connection with the suicide of Lance Naik Roy Mathew who figures in her sting video related to the controversial sahayak(buddy) system in the Army.

She moved SCu against the misuse and abuse of OSA.

The journalist working with a news website who has challenged the FIR also sought guidelines from the apex court to prevent abuse of OSA.

"The Sahayak or buddy system within the Army is a malpractice and has nothing to do with Official Secrets Act", Senior advocate Gopal Subramanium who appeared for petitioner and journalist Poonam Agarwal told a bench headed by Justice Chelameswar.

The senior Advocate alleged there is misuse of to Sahayak/Buddy system in the light of the recommendation given by the Standing Committee of Defence in its 31st repot. There is malpractice within Army.
"They can't be asked to do minimal work. They are Lance Naik," Subramaniam said .

Agarwal, a senior journalist with ‘The Quint’ had shot the sting video in which Mathew talks against the sahayak system in Army.

After the release of the video, Mathew allegedly committed suicide.

Agarwal has also sought a probe into his death.

Not only under the OSA, Agarwal has also been booked for ‘criminal trespass’ and ‘abetment to suicide’ under the Indian Penal Code.

Says the petition filed through advocate Anindita Pujari: “Such FIRs not only impinges upon fundamental rights but also journalistic freedom”.

Agarwal alleged that the "action of the Respondents (Army and Police) smacks of witchhunt and a clear motive to brush aside the real circumstances behind the unnatural death of Gunner Roy Mathew. Registration of an FIR against the petitioners amounts to violation of fundamental rights of the petitioner as a journalist,”

Agarwal also sought directions for an appropriate inquiry into the alleged misuse of the sahayak system in the Army.

The plea said: “The Army and its personnel, being citizens of India, are under equal constitutional obligation and duty to protect and promote a fair system of administration of justice through an unimpeded investigation and cannot be a party to its undermining and destruction in order to ward off scrutiny of any wrongdoings by its delinquent officers by journalists or responsible citizenry, by seeking to invoke draconian provisions of the OSA and the IPC”.

Read the Petition here.