In the hearing before Justice Mukta Gupta, Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, appearing for the agency, made the request for in-camera proceeding, which was opposed by Sharma's counsel. “I am opposing the plea. These (proceedings) are not under the Official Secrets Act,” said senior advocate Mohit Mathur for the journalist. The judge discontinued the hearing saying that the matter will be listed at end of the board but could not be taken up subsequently due to the unavailability of counsel for the parties.
The matter would be heard next on September 20.
During the hearing, the court was informed that the charge sheet in the case has now been filed. In its application under section 14 of Official Secrets Act, 1923, the agency has sought “exclusion of the public during the proceedings” on the ground that “any disclosure during the course of the proceedings relating to an offence under the Official Secrets Act, 1923 would be prejudicial to the safety of the state.” It further asserted that the scheduled offence, which is being probed by Delhi police, concerns “highly confidential and secret information relating to military intelligence”.
The agency has opposed grant of bail to the journalist, saying the offence committed by him has cross border implications and if released, he would not be available for further ongoing investigation. In its response to the bail plea of the journalist, the agency has submitted that since Sharma allegedly supplied confidential information to Chinese Intelligence Officials during foreign trips, part of the offence took place in foreign locations. It alleged that Sharma did not cooperate with the investigation and has miserably failed to establish even prima facie innocence at this stage under the money laundering law.
On August 26, Justice Mukta Gupta had directed the agency to file its status report in the matter.
On July 17, a sessions court here had denied bail to Sharma, saying that if released on bail, he would definitely attempt to wipe off the footprints and cover up the traces.
Dismissing the journalist's bail application, the judge had said, ''Sharma received lakhs of rupees on multiple occasions, invariably in cash, from dubious sources'' and failed to furnish any palpable explanation regarding the receipt of the said money.
The ED arrested Sharma under sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) on July 1.
The ED case is based on a Delhi Police FIR filed under the Official Secrets Act and various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against Sharma last year.
The journalist was arrested by the special cell of the Delhi Police on September 14 last year and charged with passing on information about the Indian Army's deployment and the country's border strategy to Chinese intelligence officers.
He was granted bail by the Delhi High Court in the case in December last year.