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After 29 years of Official Secrets trial for 'secret' letter, court grants businessman probation

In a breather for a man who has undergone 29 years of trial for allegedly possessing secret documents of the commerce ministry, a court has released him on probation of a year. While the man has not been awarded a prison term due to the long-drawn trial he underwent, a telling commentary on India’s judicial system, his conduct will be monitored.

Additional Sessions Judge Virender Kumar Bansal, in an order delivered September 7, released Rakesh Kumar Jain, a joint managing director of a Delhi-based company, Jain Shudh Vanaspati Limited, on a year’s probation and directed him to “maintain peace and good behaviour”.

Jain was being tried in an Official Secrets Act case lodged in 1986. Jain, now 57, was 28 when the case was registered.

The court observed that the maximum punishment for the offence for which Jain was held guilty is three years’ imprisonment or fine or both.

“A period of more than 29 years have passed when this long trial started, coupled with the fact that he has clean antecedents and is not a previous convict,” the court said.

“I find it is a fit case where he can be released on probation.”

The court directed Jain to maintain peace and good behaviour for one year and asked him to furnish a bond of Rs 10,000 and a surety of like amount.

The court also directed that if he breached bond he would produce himself before the court to hear his sentence. The probationary officer was also asked to submit a report about his conduct every three months.

Jain sought leniency stating that he was regularly appearing before the court since 1986 and, therefore, must be released on probation.

Jain told the court that he has never misused the liberty of bail during the trial and had clean antecedent.

However, the CBI sought maximum punishment, stating that he had in his possession secret documents that could affect the country’s security and economy.

According to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Jain possessed a secret letter that deals with a policy matter on import and allocation of edible oil and the pricing policy of edible oil and vanaspati.

The CBI alleged that documents would prejudicially affect the economy in matters relating to distribution and pricing of essential commodities.

A first information report was registered against Jain on the basis of a complaint by a director in the commerce ministry on July 9, 1986.

Jain’s company was banned in 1984 by the government from importing or exporting vanaspati oil for five years as it was found to be mixing beef tallow in it.

Jain on April 24, 1985, had requested the commerce inistry to withdraw the ban citing secret official documents that contained policy matters related to edible oil and vanaspati.

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