In last few days many cases of espionage in Indian Army were unearthed. This is not a new phenomenon. Every year some soldiers of Indian army are caught for spying for the foreign intelligence agencies. ISI of Pakistan is mainly behind such activities. This is because they are always trying to get the information about Indian defence forces.
In this article we will look why soldiers go for espionage against one’s own country. How these cases of espionage in Army are exposed? Also we will try to understand what procedure is followed for punishing such treacherous soldiers and what punishment is given as per various laws.
Why Some Soldiers Turn Treacherous and Carry Out Espionage?
Before going forward let’s briefly cover this basic question. Generally soldiers are highly motivated and loyal. But still some of them may fall prey to the attractions. Some soldiers agree to leak information in lure of money. Some are ‘honey trapped’ i.e. they get lured for sexual favors and then are blackmailed for exchanging the information. Basically a soldier turns treacherous when he values such small and temporary pleasures more than the loyalty to the force and nation.
How Soldiers Carrying Out Espionage In Army Are Caught?
Indian Army has its own ‘counter-intelligence’ system in place to identify any treacherous element inside the organisation. Directorate General Military Intelligence (DGMI) often called as Military Intelligence (MI) is the lead counter intelligence agency of the Indian Army. However MI is also entrusted with task of collecting military intelligence from Nations of interest. Thus it performs foreign missions as well. But Counter intelligence is also an important domain of the agency.
Counter intelligence is actually a practice in which penetration of enemy intelligence in our own organisation is identified and countered. For this, military intelligence performs surveillance on officers, soldiers of the Army, their family members and civilian employees in the Army. Even civilians operating inside defence establishments are on the radars. These include contractors like vegetable and ration suppliers, tailors, shopkeepers and even sweepers. One would remember recently a vegetable supplier in the Pokhran base of Indian army was arrested for espionage activities.
However MI is not a sole agency which does this task. Intelligence Bureau which is lead counter intelligence agency for the country, NIA and local police also have an eye on such activities. Military intelligence works in close co-ordination with them.
Once a suspicion of developed around a person, he/she is put under surveillance. It is done as per the SOPs (Standard operating procedures). They clearly define when, how and for how much time a person should be put on surveillance. It is done by both human and technical means. During surveillance if any concrete evidence is found against the person, further action is taken. The person is arrested in a joint action by MI and police.
What Action Is Taken On Soldiers Caught For Espionage?
The soldier is first arrested by the police. He is booked under various laws like Official Secrets Act and the Army act. A case is lodged as per relevant sections of these acts.
The custody of soldier is then handed over to the relevant investigation agency. In case of an army soldier, army takes his custody and conducts interrogation. As per the information received from the person, further action is taken like arresting his associates, recovering data and tools used, etc.
In the custody it is immediately investigated what information has been leaked. Then the possible threat is assessed due to leakage of that information. Attempts are made immediately to mitigate that threat. For example, if information of any army unit is leaked, then that unit is put on alert. Action is taken to thwart any possible attack, intrusion or any enemy activity on that unit.
The further action on that soldier is carried out as per the rules of military court. A proper judicial process is followed. Thus a charge-sheet is filed, advocates are appointed and the trial takes place. If the soldier is found guilty of the espionage, action is taken as per the laws which are discussed below. Generally these actions are termination of the service and punishment as per the law.
Legal Provisions For Punishing Espionage
Let’s have a look at various provisions of laws that punish soldiers for passing on confidential information to the enemy.
Official Secrets Act, 1923
This is the main act in India for punishing people found guilty for spying. Both the members of armed forces as well as civilians can be punished under it.
Section 3 of the act provides for the ‘penalties for spying’. The act provides for punishment of imprisonment up to 14 years for leaking sensitive information related to the Army, Navy or the Air force. If some other information is leaked, there is an imprisonment of up to 13 years.
Section 5 of the act has provisions about ‘Wrongful communication of information’. If any information is shared to the enemy that may threaten security, sovereignty and integrity of India and under some other clauses, there can be imprisonment of up to 3 years or fine or both.
Official Secrets Act also provides for death penalty if the offence is identified as ‘waging a war against India’.
The Army Act, 1950
The Army act provides various rules for Army personnel and provisions of punishment for violating them. Section 34 (d) specifies punishment for conviction by court martial in offence of espionage. It provides for ‘death or such less punishment as this act mentions’. Thus maximum punishment can be a death sentence. Section 35 (b) covers such offences of espionage that are not punishable with death sentence but with imprisonment of 14 years or less. The severity of punishment depends on the gravity of offense, i.e. how sensitive is the information leaked.
It is said that spying is the second oldest profession in this world. The world of military has always been a hotbed of spying. Every nation tries to collect information about enemy’s military. Thus every country also tries continuously to save its vital secrets through counter intelligence. We briefly looked how Indian Army’s counter intelligence works and what does Indian army do with its soldiers that are caught for espionage.