Former Indian diplomat Madhuri Gupta, accused of passing on sensitive information to Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), will be charged under the Official Secrets Act, the Delhi High Court has ordered.
Justice Pratibha Rani held that evidence placed by the police was "prima facie sufficient" to frame a charge against Gupta under the more stringent section 3(1) (Part-I) of Official Secrets Act, which attracts maximum punishment of 14 years.
Gupta, 56, once a second secretary at the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, was arrested on April 27, 2010, for spying and on charges of passing on information to the Pakistani intelligence agency.
On January 7, 2012, the trial court charged Gupta under the Official Secrets Act with spying, which carries a maximum sentence of three years. Police had challenged the order in the trial court and sought modification of charges, demanding that Gupta be tried under sections entailing punishment of up to 14 years.
Advocate Rajesh Mahajan, appearing for the police, had told the high court that the information which Gupta passed on to the ISI through emails was related to the security and defence of the nation. He said the Official Secrets Act's section 3(1)(Part-I) provided for punishment up to 14 years.
The high court set aside a trail court's order where she was charged under a section attracting maximum punishment of three years.
"The material placed by the prosecution supported with opinion was prima facie sufficient to frame charge against the respondent/accused (Gupta) under first part of Section 3(1) of Official Secrets Act attracting maximum punishment up to a period of fourteen years," Justice Rani said in a recent order that IANS has accessed.
"After the charge is amended, the trial court shall give due opportunity to Gupta to recall the witnesses already examined for further cross examination if she feels the same necessary to defend herself," the high court said.
Gupta allegedly revealed certain classified information to Pakistani officials and was in touch with two ISI officials, Mubshar Raza Rana and Jamshed.
As per the charge-sheet filed in July 2010, Gupta was involved in a relationship with Jamshed, whom she planned to marry.
The charge-sheet said she used a computer installed at her residence in Islamabad and a Blackberry phone to stay in touch with the two Pakistani spies.
Gupta, however, said she is innocent. She was granted bail Jan 10, 2012.
(Garima Tyagi can be contacted at email@example.com)