The Kerala High Court has ordered the police to carry out a detailed inquiry to ascertain how a ‘top secret’ communication for the detention of three accused in a smuggling case reached the hands of two of them, enabling them to abscond. A bench of Justices Anil K Narendran and PG Ajithkumar said preventive detention orders under the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities (COFEPOSA) Act are to be executed by the state police and therefore, it has to “maintain absolute secrecy” while carrying it out.
The court said that in the instant case the explanation offered by the police for the leak of the top secret communication to the accused was “not at all satisfactory”. “It shows the apathy of the concerned officers in the State Police, who are responsible for the execution of the detention order,” the bench said.
It also noted that it was a matter of serious concern that a copy of the top secret communication reached the hands of the accused. The court further noted that a secret communication from the State Police Chief is not a document to be supplied to the detenu.
“Once a detenu comes to know that similar orders have been issued against his associates, the information in all likelihood will be shared with others and they may abscond.
“Hence, the State Police Chief (SPC) has marked the communication as Top Secret”. However, it is seen that a copy of that communication reached the hands of the petitioner and he has absconded,” the bench said in its order.
It directed the SPC to “conduct a detailed inquiry through an officer not below the rank of Superintendent of Police as to how Top Secret’ communication dated June 4, 2022 reached the hands of the petitioner (accused)”.
“Based on the report of inquiry, appropriate action shall be taken against the concerned officers, who are responsible for not maintaining absolute secrecy of that communication. The action taken report of the State Police Chief shall be filed before this Court, on or before November 28, 2022,” the bench said.
The order came on a plea moved by one of the absconding accused seeking quashing of the detention order and also to communicate the detention order to him. The plea was dismissed as withdrawn after the lawyers appearing for the accused, on instructions, decided not to press the reliefs sought in the petition.
However, during the hearing of the matter, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), represented by Deputy Solicitor General of India Manu S, told the court that no relief be granted to the accused as the detention order could not be executed since he was absconding.
The police told the court that according to an inquiry carried out by the Deputy Superintendent of Police, Special Branch into the leak of the top secret document, it was found that while serving the detention order on one of the three accused the confidential communication was handed over by mistake to the arrested person.
“Since the petitioner is a co-accused in the crime, he might have somehow obtained a copy of the said (top secret) letter from the relatives of Alavi Urakkottil (arrested accused),” police had told the court.