Navy and the CBI have been tight-lipped on what information has been leaked

New Delhi: A serving commander level officer in the Indian navy, Ajit Kumar Pandey, who was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) along with four other individuals, was allegedly passing sensitive information related to Kilo class submarines to unauthorized entities. Pandey was posted at the Western Naval Command Headquarters, Mumbai, when he was arrested by the CBI on 3 September.

The CBI had filed an FIR in the case on 2 September and arrested Pandey and two retired Indian naval commanders, Randeep Singh and S.J. Singh, along with two private individuals. The CBI has slapped charges of conspiracy (Section 120-B of Indian Penal Code), apart from Section 7a and 8 of the Prevention of Corruption Act which talks about taking gratification (bribe).

The CBI took the step by acting on the information provided it to by “sources” (in such cases an euphemism for agencies tasked for keeping an eye on government officials) which stated that the official had been taking bribe for himself as well as other public servants in lieu of sharing secret information of internal documents and sharing tender documents related to procurement and maintenance with select companies.

Commenting on the developments, the Indian Navy, in a statement shared with this newspaper, said, “Investigation related to alleged information leak of administrative and commercial nature being with some unauthorised personnel has come to light and is being investigated by appropriate government agencies. The Investigation by the agency with complete support of the Indian Navy is in progress. An internal inquiry by the Navy is also being progressed.”

Official sources said that the internal inquiry was being conducted by a Vice Admiral rank officer to ascertain, among other things, primarily the nature (quality, quantity) of details that were illegally shared and other officials, if any, were involved in the passing of information and documents in lieu for bribes.

While the Navy and the CBI have been tight-lipped on what information has been leaked, it can be safely assumed—considering the way the case is being handled and the fact that the details of the same were made public almost a month after the arrest of the accused and bribe money that was paid which officials have described as “large”—that the information was of valuable nature, both strategically and commercially.

For a commissioned naval officer to reach Commander level (equivalent to Lieutenant Colonel in the Indian Army and Wing Commander in the Indian Air Force), approximately 13 years of service is required. The approximate salary of a Commander in the Indian navy is Rs 1.20 lakh per month.

At least 19 locations were searched by the CBI in different cities of India to gather evidence in the present case.

The Indian navy presently operates eight Russian origin Kilo class submarines that are categorized as Sindhughosh class submarines in India. Four out of these eight—INS Sindhukesari, INS Sindhuraj, INS Sindhuratna, INS Sindhughosh—are being upgraded at approximately Rs 1,500 crore per piece.