Journalist Santanu Saikia, who was arrested on Friday in connection with the alleged leak of confidential Petroleum Ministry documents, has been booked in the past by the CBI under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) for publishing the contents of a Cabinet note. He was, however, discharged by a court in February 2009. Saikia, who runs energy portal indianpetro.com, was booked in 1999 in connection with the publication of the contents of a Cabinet note on the government’s disinvestment policy. The CBI had earlier registered a Preliminary Enquiry to ascertain how the document was leaked just a day before a Cabinet meeting.
However, in February 2009, Additional Sessions Judge Inder Jeet Singh discharged Saikia from the case, ruling that the publication of a document merely tagged “secret” would not make the journalist culpable under the OSA. The court held that the real yardstick of whether the disclosure of a document attracted an offence under the OSA was whether an “official code” or “password” had been divulged in terms of Section 5 of the OSA. The judge ruled that the publication of the disinvestment document was unlikely to affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, or the security of the state or friendly relations with foreign states.