Leakage of military secret treason, deserves no mercy, says Congress' AK Antony on Arnab Goswami WhatsApp chats row

The former defence minister also said that India's national security and the high offices of the prime minister and others have never been 'compromised' in such a way

Press Trust of India January 20, 2021 18:46:34 IST
Leakage of military secret treason, deserves no mercy, says Congress' AK Antony on Arnab Goswami WhatsApp chats row

File photo of AK Antony. AFP

New Delhi: Leaking of the official secret of military operations is treason and those involved must be punished and the prime minister must come clean, Congress leader AK Antony said Wednesday referring to the purported WhatsApp chats of Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami doing the rounds of social media.

Addressing a joint press conference with party leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Sushilkumar Shinde and Salman Khurshid here, Antony said those involved in the "anti-national act" deserve no mercy and the government should immediately order an inquiry into information leak about the 2019 airstrikes.

"Leaking of the official secret is a criminal act. Leaking official secret about the military operation, national security matters, sensitive military operations especially military strike is treason, anti-national. They have to be punished for anti-national activities, for treason. They deserve no mercy," he said.

Referring to the WhatsApp chats between Goswami and ex-BARC CEO Partho Dasgupta, he said India's national security has never been compromised in such a way and never have the high offices of the prime minister, home minister and others been "brazenly compromised".

"Does the prime minister, home minister, in fact, the entire government have any moral, political, constitutional right to continue in office after such damning revelations? We demand that the prime minister should come clean on these accusations immediately in order to restore the severely damaged credibility of the highest office of the country," a joint statement by the leaders said.

"Never before has India's national security been so completely compromised. Never before has the office of the prime minister, the office of the home minister, office of the law minister, office of the information and broadcasting minister been so brazenly compromised," the statement also said.

Antony said having worked with the military for long as former defence minister, they could never leak information about such operations and only one of the top five civilians in the government are suspect in the case.

"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 a party to the leakage of this sensitive military operation deserves no mercy," he said.

Former home minister Shinde said the matter involved the violation of the Official Secrets Act and it would be raised in the budget session of Parliament starting 29 January. He said the charges must be probed under the Official Secrets Act and added that the Congress would talk to other parties on a JPC probe into the matter.

Asked about the joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into the matter, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said he could not speak on behalf of other parties yet and would leave it to the wisdom of Parliament as it was only meeting in the next nine days.

He also said the probe must bring out whether Goswami was merely bragging about his proximity to the government or whether he actually got help, which was a serious matter.

Khurshid referred to certain references in the chats about the judiciary and asked whether the judiciary would take cognisance.

"Never before did our judiciary come under such an attack. Never before has a senior leader been divested of his dignity in his death," he said.

He also said that the charge sheet filed by the Mumbai Police as part of the ongoing investigation in the TRP scam carries explosive details of "connivance, collusion and corruption at the highest level of the Modi government".

He alleged that a journalist colluded with the high and mighty of the government to get TRPs manipulated and he manipulated public opinion for the ruling party.

"In the process, India and every single Indian lose out on a chance for responsive, clean and progressive governance," the party said.

"The shocked nation has witnessed reprehensible conduct of those in the highest echelons of power in defrauding every government structure, the atrocious and scandalous attack on India's highest judiciary. The evil manner of playing with the life and dignity of BJP's senior-most cabinet minister has shamed and compromised the Modi government beyond repair and recognition," the party statement said.

On February 26, 2019, India had launched airstrikes on what was said to be Jaish-e-Mohammed's training camp in Pakistan's Balakot.

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