New Delhi: Four of the accused in the Petroleum Ministry document leak case were today remanded in police custody till February 23 by a court after Delhi Police alleged they were providing “secret” material to certain corporate houses.
The Crime Branch of Delhi Police produced the seven accused before Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Sanjay Khanagwal and said it required custodial interrogation of Lalta Prasad, Rakesh Kumar, Prayas Jain and Shantanu Saikia as “sensitive” documents have been recovered.
The police alleged that “incriminating” documents of the Coal, Power and other ministries were recovered from the possession of the accused who were supplying these to certain corporate houses for their benefit.
Regarding the other three accused—Ishwar Singh, Asharam and Rajkumar Chaubey, the police said they were not required for custodial interrogation, so they be remanded in judicial custody.
The court after hearing the submissions, remanded the four accused in police custody till February 23 while the three others were sent to two weeks judicial custody.
On the alleged roles of the accused, the police said Chaubey was driving the car in which “secret and confidential” documents were recovered while Asharam and Ishwar Singh used to pass on information from the Petroleum Ministry to him.
Asharam, who was working in the Petroleum Ministry, used to switch off the CCTV cameras installed in the ministry after which his sons Prasad and Rakesh used to enter the premises by using fake entry cards which they had procured by paying Rs 4,000 each, the police said.
Regarding Saikia, the police said huge amount of documents recovered from his possession while Prasad used to illegally trespass in the Petroleum Ministry to procure the documents.
During the hearing, the counsel appearing for Saikia told the court that his client is a journalist and the documents which he was possessing were a part of his profession.
The defence counsel contended that the police have to first show that how these documents were classified. Lawyers, representing the other accused who were remanded in police custody, pleaded before the court to allow them to meet their clients during police custody.
The court allowed their submission and asked them to meet their clients during police custody at 6 PM tomorrow. Jain and Saikia were arrested today while the other five were arrested yesterday. Both of them are energy consultants who allegedly received “stolen” documents, the police said. Saikia runs a web portal on petroleum issues and has his office in Defence Colony in South Delhi while Jain runs his consultancy firm in Patel Nagar here.
The police had yesterday arrested two Oil Ministry officials, a Reliance Industries (RIL) staffer and two other middlemen in connection with alleged leaking of classified government documents to energy companies for money.
Asharam (58) and Ishwar Singh (56) were employed as multi-tasking staff in the ministry and Prasad and Rakesh were previously employed as multi-tasking staff at Shastri Bhawan. Police sources said the accused allegedly used fake ID cards to gain access to Shastri Bhawan, the building that houses the Petroleum Ministry, in the middle of the night.
They would allegedly use the duplicate keys to open rooms of senior officials and photocopy “secret” official documents for sale to corporates and consultancy firms.
Rooms that they had allegedly accessed to “steal” official documents were those of Special Secretary Rajive Kumar, Joint Secretary (Refineries) Sandeep Poundrik, Joint Secretary (Exploration) U P Singh and Director (Exploration-1) Nalin Kumar Srivastava, among others, the sources said.
Raids were yesterday conducted at several establishments including a prominent building in Connaught Place which houses offices of a leading private petroleum firm believed to be RIL.
Delhi Police Commissioner B S Bassi had said that action was taken on a tip off that two persons, along with their associates, were involved in “procuring, obtaining and stealing the official documents by trespassing into the offices of Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas at Shastri Bhawan on February 17”.
“A trap was laid and three persons came in an Indigo car near Shastri Bhawan. Two persons alighted and went inside while the third remained sitting in the car. After around two hours, when the two persons entered the car, all three persons were apprehended,” he had said.