Central Bureau of Investigation v. Abhishek Verma
(2009) 6 SCC 300
In the Supreme Court of India
Before Justice S.B. Sinha and Justice (Dr) M.K. Sharma
Decided on May 6, 2009
Relevancy of the case: Admissibility of portable data storage devices.
Statutes & Provisions Involved
- The Information Technology Act, 2000 (Section 4)
- The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Section 120B)
- The Official Secrets Act, 1923 (Section 3, 5)
- The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (Section 3, 65A, 65B)
Relevant Facts of the Case
- In May 2005, a court of inquiry was conducted by the Air Force Headquarters. It established that Wing Commander S.L. Surve had obtained a pen drive containing information about the Directorate of Naval Operation (DNO) from Kulbhushan Parashar, a former officer of the Indian Navy. The Naval Headquarters held a Board of Enquiry. Subsequently, three Naval Officers, namely Kashyap Kumar, Vijender Rana, and Vinod Kumar Jha, were indicted for causing leakage of classified naval information. It was also reported that Kulbhushan Parashar was associated with a company named Atlas.
- Ministry of Defence delivered information to CBI under two letters dated 18.02.2006 and 01.03.2006. On that basis, the CBI registered an FIR on 20.3.2006 against Kulbhushan Parashar, Ex. Cdr. Ravi Shankaran, S.K. Kohli, Mukesh Bajaj, Rajrani Jaiswal, Sambhajee L. Surve, Virender Rana, Kashyap Kumar, and Vijender Kumar Jha. The FIR was registered under Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code read with Section 3(1)(c) and Section 5 of the Official Secrets Act, 1923.
- The Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Delhi, passed an order dated July 10, 2006, taking cognizance of the offences mentioned above. However, the respondent preferred a bail application bearing Bail Application No. 2546 of 2007 under Section 439 Cr.P.C. before the High Court of Delhi praying for the grant of bail. These appeals arise out of the judgment and order dated 30.05.2008 passed by the High Court of Delhi by which the learned Single Judge granted bail to the respondent herein.
Prominent Arguments by the Advocates
- The learned counsel for the respondent contended that the High Court rightly granted the bail as there was no material on record to show that the respondent was a principal officer of Atlas Interactive India Ltd. It was submitted that there was no evidence that the pen drives recovered from Vijendra Rana were in possession of the respondent at any time. Further, there was no evidence of the transmission of the material by the co-accused to the respondent.
- The learned counsel for the appellant submitted that the pen drives recovered from the co-accused Vijendra Rana and the documents seized from the premises of Kulbhushan Parashar contain sensitive information.
Opinion of the Bench
- The Hon’ble Court observed that the pen drives were in an unsealed condition and not temper proof when handed over. Moreover, the admissibility of the portable data storage devices is sceptical since no link has been established between the pen drives and any computer belonging to the respondent either at his residence or in his office. Further, these storage devices must fulfil the requirements given under Section 65B of the Indian Evidence Act to be admissible. Subsequently, Section 4 of the Information Technology Act should also be taken into perspective.
- The Hon’ble court ruled out any deficiency in the judgment and order passed by the High Court. Hence, the appeal was dismissed.