Leakage of navy secret treason, these concerned deserve no mercy: Antony

Aditi Tandon

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 20

Upping the ante on the explosive Arnab Goswami chats on Wednesday, former Defence Minister and Congress veteran AK Antony said the leakage of secret military operations was treason and those who were party to the act deserved no mercy and must be punished.

Shocked at Republic TV Editor Arnab Goswami’s remarks to ex-BARC chief Partho Dasgupta three days before the IAF strike in Balakot that “something big is going to happen”, Antony said leaking official secret is a crime but leaking information on military operations was an anti national act and those involved must be punished.

Antony also said only four to five civilians in the top echelons of the government had the Balakot strike information and “someone from among them has leaked it.”

“Having worked with the military people I am sure no one from the military could ever leak such information,” the former defence minister said.

Demanding that an enquiry be ordered immediately to determine the source of the leak and whether the leak compromised the Balakot operations, Antony said, “One of the top five civilians in the government suspect. It has to be enquired immediately on war footing as to who that person is. Whoever is responsible for the leakage must be punished for treason and this journalist who was in possession of sensitive military operations he has to be punished. The government must order a proper enquiry. Whoever is responsible, whoever is party to the leakage of this sensitive military operation deserves no mercy. He has to be punished.”

The ex-minister, flanked by former home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, former external affairs minister Salman Khurshid and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said today that “Leaking of official secret is a criminal act but leaking of official secret about military operation, a national security matter, that too sensitive military operations especially a military strike is treason, anti national.”

It is not just criminal action it is anti national activity, said Antony. He said only three or four or five ministers and officials could have known of the operation.

Antony said how three days before the Balakot strike on February 26, 2019, one journalist came to know the details of the air strike.

“It could have affected the operations. I don’t know whether it did not or. Effectiveness of the operation could also have been affected if details are known in advance to someone. How did a person not authorized to have this information end up having it?” he asked adding that a handful of people would know.

“After working with the military people I am very sure no military officer will leak such sensitive information to journalists or others so these documents were leaked to one journalist from among those four or five civilian people who are in the top position in the government, either the ministers or officers concerned with national security. Only they can leak these documents,” he said.

Shinde said the leakage must be probed under the Official Secrets Act with the Congress adding that the matter would be raised in Parliament and demand of a JPC made at an appropriate time after speaking to other parties.

Azad demanded a probe into whether Arnab was simply bragging his proximity to the government or whether he actually got help from the government to manipulate the TRPs through unlawful means.

“This matter is not the concern of one political party but of the entire country, how two persons—editor of a national channel and CEO of BARC – manipulated the TRPs. TRP itself gives you a greater role in national news networks and more advertisements. If someone has become richer, got more finances and ads not in normal course or merit but through criminal conspiracy and by manipulating TRPs artificially, this is a matter of great concern,” Azad said.

He asked whether the TRP and BARC system should function at the cost of national security.

Khurshid mentioned the alleged unsavoury references in the chats about the judiciary with Dasgupta once asking Arnab to “Buy the judge” and asked whether the judiciary would take cognizance of the issue.

“Irresponsible statements have been made in relation to a case. The comments are very painful and therefore some questions arise. Have attempts been made to influence the judiciary? Have any wrong decisions been secured through this influence?” asked Khurshid.

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