Former diplomat Madhuri Gupta, who had served at the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, was on Saturday sentenced to three years in jail for passing on sensitive information to Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), with a Delhi court saying her actions caused a "severe security threat".
Additional Sessions Judge Sidharth Sharma gave her the maximum sentence for the offences of spying and wrongful communication of information protected under the law, observing that an educated woman like her did not deserve any leniency.
Sixty-one-year-old Gupta, who was the Second Secretary (Press & Information) at the high commission from 2007 till her arrest on April 22, 2010, during a visit here, was held guilty yesterday under various provisions of the Official Secrets (OS) Act.
After passing the sentence, the court granted bail to Gupta to allow her to appeal against the conviction and the sentence.
She was suspected by Indian intelligence agencies of spying for Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence since 2008.
According to the prosecution, the Ministry of External Affairs had received information that Gupta had been maintaining unauthorised contacts with Pakistani intelligence officials and was passing on sensitive official information personally as well as through electronic means from her computer at her office and residence in Islamabad.
The prosecution had stated that she passed on the information to the ISI handlers through her e-mail account from October 2009 to April 2010.
The court said that Gupta was a modern educated woman who had served in different embassies and at the time of the offence, she was posted in a very sensitive position in the high commission.
"Undoubtedly, from a person of her stature, it was expected that she would act in a more responsible manner than an ordinary citizen as she was at a high position of trust but her actions tarnished the image of the country and has caused severe threat to the security of the country.
"Therefore, she does not deserve any leniency in punishment," the court said.
While convicting her, the court had said that the e-mails "passed on by the accused were categorically sensitive information which could have been useful to the enemy country... and its secrecy was of utmost importance".
Gupta was convicted under Sections 3 and 5 of the Official Secrets Act which attract a maximum sentence of three years and fine or both.
She had sought leniency from the court on the ground that she was a senior citizen, a single woman and was a victim of circumstances.
Public prosecutor Irfan Ahmed had opposed her submissions stating that she was an educated woman and was holding an important position and that it was not expected from a person of her stature to be involved in such activities.
He had said that she understood the consequences of her act.
Gupta was arrested on April 22, 2010 by the special cell of the Delhi Police on the charge of passing on sensitive information to Pakistani officials and remaining in touch with two ISI officials, Mubshar Raza Rana and Jamshed.
While convicting Gupta, the court had observed that in one of the e-mails, she had promised to collect information regarding hydroelectric power projects in Jammu and Kashmir, which could have had a serious repercussion on the country's security.
"It is seen that the accused was unable to give such information but her intention of passing on such information and her going to Jammu after giving the false excuse of attending marriage points out her intention of helping the enemy country.
"She had been giving information regarding various postings of officers of defence, MEA (Ministry of External Affairs) and HCI (High Commission of India) as well as their family particulars, which could have caused danger to the life and security to said officers and their family," the court had said.
It had also noted that various electronic gadgets, including laptops and Blackberry mobile phones which were purchased in her name, contained e-mails sent to various ISI handlers.
The court had convicted Gupta for the offences under "second part" of sections 3(1)(c) (obtaining, publishing or communicating to any person any secret official information which is useful to an enemy) and 3 (wrongful communication of information) of the OS Act and section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.
It, however, had absolved her from the "first part" of Section 3(1)(c) of the OS Act that attracts a maximum punishment of 14 years, holding that none of the information divulged by her pertained to any work of defence or to the naval, military or air force or affairs of the government.
Gupta had denied the incriminating evidence against her and had stated that she was innocent and was falsely implicated in the case by the officials of the high commission and the MEA with whom she had strained or frosty relations, in connivance with police officials in Delhi.