If evidence includes sensitive information, should that be shared with the terror accused? Supreme Court is being approached by National Investigation Agency with this question, as the Karnataka High Court has ordered them to furnish all the evidence it had collected on the alleged espionage activity of a Lashkar-e-Toiba terror module, which was busted in 2012 in Bengaluru, to the 11 accused.
Karnataka High Court had upheld an order by Sessions court, directing the NIA to furnish copy of mirror image of three internal hard disks, six laptops, seven pen drives and two hard disks to all the accused. A Division bench comprising of Justices H.Billappa And K.N.Phaneendra had said that under section 207 of CrPC. the accused needs to be provided with copies of the documents, statements etc.
The Sessions Judge had observed “It is nowhere stated in Section 14 of the Official Secrets Act, 1923 that copies of documents should not be furnished to the accused. It is clearly stated in the above said decision that Section 14 of the said Act does not deprive the right of accused under Criminal Procedure Code to get copies of statement of witnesses, documents etc.” The High court upholding the order, had observed that there is no charge for the offence punishable under the provisions of the Official Secrets Act against the accused.
According to NIA, the report contains highly sensitive and confidential data vulnerable for the safety and security of the Government of India. This privileged information could not be shared and given in the public domain.
Section 14 of the Official Secrets Act, 1923 says that “during the course of proceedings before a Court against any person for offence under this Act and in the course of trial of a person under this Act, application is made by the prosecution, on the ground that the publication of any evidence to be given or of any statement to be made in the course of the proceedings would be prejudicial to the safety of the State, that all or any portion of the public shall be excluded during any part of the hearing, the Court may an order to that effect but passing of sentence shall in any case takes place in public.”