Mumbai: Radio Club spat reopens Indian Army's darkest chapter

Nov 03, 2018, 07:42 IST | Hemal Ashar

Member drags up the sordid past to oppose Major NR Ajwani, who was one among the several people said to have been wrongly implicated in the infamous Samba Spy Scandal of 1979

Mumbai: Radio Club spat reopens Indian Army's darkest chapter
Advocate Ravi Goenka and Major (retd) NR Ajwani. Pics/Suresh Karkera

A Controversy is brewing in Radio Club, with a member asking why Major (Retd) Nirmal R Ajwani, whose name figured in the infamous Samba Spy Scandal of 1979, continues to be a member of the Colaba club.

Advocate Ravi Goenka, a Radio Club member of 10 years, also objected to Major Ajwani being the presiding officer at the club's Annual General Meeting (AGM), where elections for a new committee were held on September 28.

In letters to the club dated October 12 and October 20 Goenka cites that Ajwani was implicated in India's worst espionage scandal that shook the military establishment and is often referred to as the Indian Army's darkest hour.

The scandal
Between August 1978 and January 1979, the Military Intelligence arrested over 60 army men of various ranks posted in Samba after they were named as Pakistani spies by two gunners - Aya Singh and Sarwan Dass - who were themselves arrested for spying for the Inter-Services Intelligence.

Several of those implicated in the scandal protested their innocence, while some claimed that 'confessions' on the basis of which they were implicated were extracted under duress. Major Ajwani was a deputy adjutant judge advocate-general at the army's northern command at the time, and was implicated when he refused to accept that the testimony of one of those accused was voluntary.

Another accused - Captain AK Rana - subsequently named Major Ajwani also as a spy and a general court martial (GCM) was called against him. Though the GCM was finally dissolved, Ajwani was dismissed administratively. In 2000, the Delhi High Court exonerated all the army personnel allegedly involved in the case. The Centre appealed, and in March 2014, the Supreme Court upheld the Centre's decision to terminate the services of army officers while overturning the High Court's verdict.

Ajwani, who lives in Mumbai, has written about the scandal and clarifying his side of the story in the Samba Spy Scandal in a book called 'The False Spy', which was published last year.

At least one person implicated in the scandal, Havaldar Ram Swaroop, was found dead on Delhi's streets, with severe torture marks on his body. One of the initial culprits, Gunner Aya Singh, was eventually shot dead at the border while trying to cross over into Pakistan in December 1990.

In his letters, Goenka has re-opened the old wounds. "We need to respect the Supreme Court verdict, which has upheld the termination of certain officers; N Ajwani is one among them."

The club rules
In the October 12 letter to Radio Club president Harish Garg and general manager Kamlesh Anjaria, Goenka said: "The Club has to work as per the Companies Act. The attention of the company/club is invited to Article 24 of the Company/Club which reads as under: A member ceases to be a member of the club 'if found guilty by competent tribunal of any offence involving, in the opinion of the committee, moral turpitude or is dismissed from public service for such offence or misconduct'."

Goenka stated, "Ajwani's termination from the army means that he has been dismissed from public service and, going by the club's rulebooks, he cannot be a member of the club, leave alone the presiding officer at a club's elections."

Goenka, in the same letter, has attached a copy of the Supreme Court judgment dated March 6, 2014, in which "the court has confirmed the termination of N R Ajwani from the services of the Indian army on account of charges of espionage, which falls in the degree which is above the charges of misconduct."

Goenka then added that in view of Article 24 and the Supreme Court judgment, Ajwani should automatically cease to be a club member. "You are requested to let me know as to how a ceased member can be appointed by the chairman at the Annual General Meeting to hold the election of the club as a presiding officer," he said.

Club responds
Radio Club President Harish Garg declined to comment for this report. "The matter is in court, I cannot comment." Major Ajwani told mid-day, "I have nothing to say on this matter. My writings are on the Internet on social media."

Radio Club's lawyers, Crawford Bayley & Co, said in a letter to Ravi Goenka dated October 16: 'We are concerned for our client Bombay Presidency Radio Club. Our client categorically denies all of the allegations contained in the letter of October 12. Nothing contained in the said letter is deemed to have been accepted by our client by reasons of non-traverse or otherwise. We are in the process of receiving further detailed instructions and shall reply to you shortly. In the meantime, should you pursue any legal proceedings, our client shall have no option but to defend the same at your risk as to the costs and consequences.'

Also Read: Mumbai: Port Trust Trains Guns On Radio Club

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