The apprehension of court martial and not a sting video might have led to an Indian Army jawan's suicide, the Bombay High Court said quashing a criminal case lodged against a senior journalist and a retired soldier accused of abetting it.
On March 27, 2017, the Deolali Camp Police in Nashik had registered a case against journalist Poonam Agarwal and war veteran Deepchand Singh under various sections for abetment of suicide of one Roy Mathew and trespassing under IPC and sections of the Official Secrets Act.
The case was registered after Mathew, a sahayak with the Army, had committed suicide on February 7, 2017.
According to the police, Mathew had featured in a sting operation carried out by Agarwal and Singh on the sahayak or buddy system, and committed suicide due to fear and shame.
Agarwal and Singh had later approached the high court seeking quashing of the case against them.
A division bench of justices Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre on April 18 quashed the case and said it would pass a detailed order later.
In its detailed order made available Monday, the court said the case set out in the complaint against Agarwal and Singh was completely inadequate and insufficient to invoke provisions of section 306 of the Indian Penal Code (abetment to suicide).
The order said Roy Mathew had made some comments about the buddy system in the video and he must have been interrogated by his superiors when the clip became viral.
"It is this apprehension of court martial which might have led to the suicide of the deceased, but by no stretch of imagination the video containing the information given by Roy Mathew amounted to any offence," the court said in its order.
"It was only the fear of being subjected to court martial and its deleterious consequences, the deceased has committed suicide. However, we do not find any proximity or nexus between this suicide and the act of the applicant Poonam recording the video," it added.
The court further said that the offence of abetment contemplates intentional aiding and active complicity.
"We find these necessary ingredients absent in the material relied upon by the prosecution in the present case," it said.
The bench further said that Agarwal and Singh had not done anything that affected national interest.
"We fail to understand how the video clippings which contain a conversation about the sahayak or buddy system affects the security of the nation," the court said.
The court said it does not find that the clippings contain any information affecting the security of the State or the sovereignty and integrity of the country.