Representational image.
Representational image.(Photo: The Quint)
  • 1. Why Were Over 50 Army Jawans Arrested?
  • 2. Who Are the Key Players?
  • 3. High Court-Supreme Court Tussle
  • 4. Concocted Evidence?
  • 5. Petitioners’ Long Fight
  • 6. What Is Section 18 of The Army Act?
  • 7. What's New in the Case Now?
40 Yrs On, Samba Spy Scandal Back In Court: All You Need to Know

The Delhi High Court on 12 April directed the government and the Indian Army to respond to the petition filed by Ashok Kumar Rana (former Captain, 7 Jat Regiment) and Ranbir Singh Rathaur (former Captain, 11 Garhwal Rifles) to declassify all documents pertaining to the Samba spy case. The next date of hearing is set for 3 September.

The Samba spy case has been dubbed ‘the Indian Army’s darkest chapter’ – over 50 jawans who served in the 169 Infantry Brigade at Samba, a district in Jammu and Kashmir, were arrested for espionage against India based on charges by the Directorate of Military Intelligence (MI) between 24 August 1978, and 23 January 1979.

The petition was filed this month by Captains Rathaur and Rana who were sentenced to 14 years of rigorous imprisonment and dismissed from the Army by the Court Martial. They were released in 1989. However, they haven’t been cleared of the charges and state that they had “tried every legal recourse available to them in order to prove their innocence” and restore their dignity and honour.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Samba spy case.

  • 1. Why Were Over 50 Army Jawans Arrested?

    Here’s how it began: In June 1975, Gunner Swaran Dass was arrested by his artillery unit in Madhya Pradesh following reports of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) accusing him of spying for Pakistan. He was handed over to the Military Intelligence (MI) in 1976 where he stayed in custody till 1978.

    He confessed to his crimes.

    In an interview with Indian Express in 2016, Dass alleged that when he crossed the border into Pakistan, he was tortured for having an Indian Army identification card, till he agreed to supply information to Pakistan’s Field Intelligence Unit at Sialkot. He said he recruited fellow officers from his brigade to join the task. Gunner Aya Singh was one of them, who was also arrested by the IB in July 1975 and handed over to the MI.

    Both Dass and Singh were sentenced to seven years of rigorous imprisonment and dismissed from the army. They had implicated several others for spying, including Captain Ghalwat and Captain Nagial along with 12 other jawans, under interrogation.

    Dass was reinstated in March 1979 while Singh was reinstated in March 1978, with decreased sentence, soon after he implicated two major names, Captain Ranbir Singh Rathaur and Captain AK Rana (the petitioners in the current case).

    Accordingly, in 1978, both the captains were arrested and interrogated. They both also implicated several other army personnel, which they later claimed had been false allegations made under torture.

    Captain Rathaur and Captain Rana were sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for 14 years each and were dismissed from the army by the Court Martial.

    Havaldar Ram Swaroop, who worked under Captain Rathaur, was also picked up for interrogation by the MI in 1978. The Army claims he died of a drug overdose, three days after being taken into custody. However, Indian Express reports that his post-mortem revealed he died of multiple injuries indicative of torture.

    The services of several officers were terminated without trial under Section 18 of Army Act, 1950 read with Article 310 of the Indian Constitution.


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