NEW DELHI: Now, the Indian government is contemplating issuing a ‘gag order’, contractually binding all intelligence RAW officials to ensure that they will never write a book about their careers. This is draconian and unconstitutional.
T. S. R. Subramanian, India’s cabinet secretary between 1996 and 1998 has blasted the Indian government for unleashing the CBI for going after Maj Gen V.K. Singh (retd), an old RAW hand, without even reading his book which, the CBI and RAW allege, has let out official secrets.The CBI has now told the court that it has not read the book. “How can a person be hauled up before court for revealing official secrets, if the prosecuting agency does not even know what secrets are being revealed? This is some kind of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ situation,” Subramanian said in comments published as part of an article last Saturday.
Subramanian said even when M.K. Dhar, an old Intelligence Bureau man, he had hailed Dhar’s courage even though Dhar was himself a perpetrator of many crimes. He said Dhar was courageous enough to bring the sordid functioning of the IB to limelight.
“In a democracy, there are no sacred cows. Every institution must be subjected to some public scrutiny; the degree and the extent of the scrutiny will depend on its sensitivity, appropriateness and relevance,” Subramanian said.
Unlike RAW, in the US, the CIA is not only answerable to the US legislature’s Intelligence oversight committees, its files can’t remain classified for ever and the American media has a good record of analyzing and exposing the agency’s more bizarre and questionable methods and operations.
RAW, in contrast, does not have to suffer from institutionalized parliamentary scrutiny. Besides, RAW has the Official Secrets Act that many eminent leaders over the years have apparently found reprehensible but no one has found the time to amend it, far less remove it from the statute.
The Administrative Reforms Commission’s head Veerappa Moily has publicly called for reforming the OSA. PM Manmohan Singh has remained silent so far. The Indian Express newspaper has editorially asked,”Why the PMO isn’t letting its views be known? It is the nature and strength of democracy that silence on such issues begins to look like either endorsement or inability to alter the status quo.”
Blind protection of any agency, however sensitive, is not consistent with democracy.
The CBI in India is no more seen as an independent, respected investigating agency. RAW has long lost the fig leaf of integrity. The gag order will prevent leaks, but will send signals that there could have been floods.