New Delhi: Former Indian diplomat Madhuri Gupta, accused of leaking classified information to Pakistan's ISI, will be charged under the stringent provisions of the Official Secrets Act entailing a maximum punishment of upto 14 years, the Delhi High court said on Tuesday.
Justice Pratibha Rani set aside the trial court's January 2012 order by which charges were framed against the diplomat that provided for a punishment of only three years.
"The respondent/accused (Gupta) shall be charged for the offence punishable under first part of section 3(1) of Official Secrets Act (OSA) attracting maximum punishment upto a period of fourteen years.
"After the charge is amended, the trial court shall give due opportunity to respondent/accused to recall the witnesses already examined for further cross examination if the respondent/accused feels the same is necessary to defend herself," the High Court said.
The order came on the plea of Delhi Police which had challenged the trial court's 1 January, 2012, decision on the ground that as per the material on record, Gupta should have been charged for the offence under OSA which attracts a maximum punishment of upto 14 years.
The court noted in its nine-page order that as "material on record justifies framing of charge against respondent for offence punishable under first part of section 3(1) of OSA attracting maximum punishment upto a period of 14 years, the impugned order dated 7 January, 2012 is set aside to the extent that respondent/accused has been ordered to be charged under second part of section 3(1) of OSA attracting maximum punishment upto a period of three years".
Under section 3 of the Act, passing information relating to defence carries a maximum jail term of 14 years while those not amounting to work of defence carries a lighter jail term of three years.
Delhi Police has contended that the information leaked by the former diplomat related to India's security and defence.
Gupta, who was posted as Second Secretary (Press and Information) in the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, was arrested on 22 April, 2010 by the police's Special Cell.
According to the chargesheet filed in July 2010, she was involved in a relationship with Jamshed, an ISI official, whom she planned to marry. She used to communicate with Jamshed who had a code name 'Jim'.
Gupta, who is out on bail, had refuted the allegations levelled against her and submitted before the trial court that the information was not sensitive and the alleged act of passing on information relating to country's internal security to the ISI "cannot be read as related to work of defence".