(The present one and the next few threads would show how the bureaucrats book the innocents and harass them by abusing the authority vested in them for public purpose. The serving employees can get a lot of clues from these threads to protect themselves against victimisation)
Mr. B.K. Subbarao stood first in Electrical Engineering in the A.P. University in 1963 and joined the Indian Navy the same year. He received many awards and citations in the Navy. He was the recipient of the Herbert Lott Memorial Award “for his inventiveness in improving the existing fighting devices of the Navy” and Lieutenant V.K.Jain Memorial Gold Medal “for his achievements in the field of computer technology, electrical engineering and control engineering.” He got doctorate too.
Meanwhile, in the BARC, the scientists had been working on the first design of a nuclear submarine propulsion plant since 1971.
In June 1976, Subba Rao was asked to work with BARC scientists for developing a nuclear sub-marine plant. He was made the second-in-command for a team of 20 Naval officers and 85 BARC scientists. On the basis of Subbarao’s technical findings, this design had to be dropped in 1976.
The second design was also dropped in January 1978 after Subbarao showed that it was not viable for naval application.
The BARC authorities were sore at Subbarao picking holes in their work. They, therefore, decided to bypass the Naval team. Their third design was, therefore, directly submitted by the BARC in 1980 to the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The scientists also wanted Rs. 150 crore to build a prototype of their third design. But, Indira Gandhi, wanted to have the technical opinion from Subbarao. Subbarao’s report rejected BARC’s third design also. He specified that the design failed to meet the basic standards, such as safety, followed by the nuclear navies of the USA, Russia, Britain, France and China. He gave 14 reasons whythe third design would also not work. Mrs. Gandhi did not sanction the Rs. 150 crores.
Consequently, Indira Gandhi returned BARC’S proposal. However, she also said that she would reconsider her decision if the BARC scientists could disprove Subbarao’s claim. But, the BARC did not dare to do so. The observations of Subba Rao were so sharp and correct.
The BARC started work on the fourth design towards the end of 1980. Meanwhile, the Indian Navy instructed Subbarao to develop a design of his own. Subbarao’sdesign was ready by November 1982 and submitted to the Prime Minister’s office.
Conspiracy by the officers who were egoists
Meanwhile, Navy asked Subbarao to prepare his own design. Indira Gandhi asked the BARC scientists to examine the issue based on Subbarao’s nuclear submarine design. Dr Raja Ramanna, the BARC director (also scientific advisor to the defence minister) was more egoistic. He declined to consider Subbarao’s design. He said to Subbarao, “You are a naval officer and we cannot accept the work of a naval officer. I will send my comments on your design but you will not see them in your lifetime. You should go back to the navy and work in electronics and computers which is your field”. Within a week Subbarao was taken off the submarine project by the Naval authorities.
However, Subbarao pursued the special interests he had acquired through academics and wrote a doctorate thesis. In 1985, Subbarao was awarded a Ph.D by the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay for his thesis “Nuclear Power Plant Modelling and Design Multivariable Control Approach”.
In 1987, Subbarao took voluntary retirement. He was offered a project by CEAT (INDIA) and AT&T (USA) . He had to make a presentation for a joint venture project. Dr Subbarao was readying himself for a visit to the USA.
Around this time, in 1988, Gopi Krishan Arora, Secretary of Information and Broadcasting, sounded Subbarao on Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s offer to become the Technical Head of the nuclear submarine project.
However, Subbarao was not satisfied in getting appointed to such a position by an executive order of the Prime Minister. Therefore, he suggested to the Prime Minister that a Selection Committee be formed which would scrutinise the candidature of BARC scientists for the post as well. Rajiv Gandhi was pleased with this notion and it was to be executed when Subbarao returned from the USA.
The idea of a Selection Committee alarmed the BARC scientists working on the nuclear submarine project to no end. The BARC and the Department of Atomic Energy connived with the Maharashtra Government to implicate Subbarao in a false case to prevent his reinduction into the project.
Sufferings of Subbarao
Subbarao did not make it to the USA. No sooner had he reached the Sahar International Airport on May 30, 1988 that Subbarao was confronted by police officials and detained.
He was charged with trying to smuggle secret documents out of the country under the Official Secrets Act and the Atomic Energy Act.
A vicious propaganda campaign was launched against him through the national and vernacular press to build a case, suggesting that he was caught at the airport carrying atomic and defence secrets of the country on board a foreign flight.
But all that Subbarao was carrying with him was his Ph.D thesis approved by IIT Bombay, and other literature on nuclear technology which was freely available and could be readily accessed from various universities and research centres in the world. In fact, Subbarao had not violated any law.
The scientists of BARC and DAE, who had failed to match Subbarao’s ingenuity in nuclear science and technology, were immensely successful in causing harm to his body, mind and reputation. They manipulated the legal system and state authority to take revenge.
The court case dragged on for five years. It was placed before three Magistrates, five Sessions judges, 21 High Court judges and 13 Supreme Court judges. He was repeatedly exhonerated. It was repeatedly appealed against spending public money.
In the meantime, Subbarao had spent time in the jail studying law and appeared-in-person in the Sessions Court, Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court where the case reached for a second time.
Finally, in October 1991, the Bombay High Court passed Subbarao’s acquittal orders. The appeal against the acquittal was dismissed by the Supreme Court in 1993.
The case ended in the Supreme Court. He was awarded Rs. 25,000 as “costs for his mental suffering and financial loss” but all those who had caused him the anguish and mastered his prosecution, went scot-free.
Justice Tulzapurkar shocked
Shocked by the facts of the case, Justice V. D. Tulzapurkar, former Judge of the Supreme Court, expressed publicly that there was “miscarriage of justice on account of inaccurate, untrue and misleading statements made by the prosecuting agency before several courts in the unfortunate case against Dr B. K. Subbarao.” He added, “I hope the Apex Court Judges muster Himalayan courage to admit and rectify a Hiamalyan blunder… The only other way of making proper amends would be by the State of Maharashtra who had launched the prosecution against Dr Subbarao, declaring publicly that it was an ill- conceived prosecution, tendering unqualified apology and paying him substantial compensation, unlike the meagre amount of Rs 25,000 awarded to him by the Supreme Court.”
Srinivasan writes in the Hindu
Three years later, in 1994, a new development in the case took place. It came to light that the former attorney-general, K. Parasaran had been informed by the then Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), Dr M. R. Srinivasan, that Subbarao was not carrying any atomic or defence secrets and the Ph.D thesis found in his suitcase was not a classified document. Hence, there was no violation of the Official Secrets Act, and surely no grounds for starting a criminal case against Subbarao.
Dr. Srinivasan disclosed these facts in a signed article in Hindu. “I find it reprehensible that a naval officer who performed well has been treated so badly by the CBI. The agony that Subbarao and his family have had to endurecan never be adequately compensated,” he wrote. It appeared that Parasaran had chosen to ignore Srinivasan’s opinion and given an ‘illegal’ sanction to implicate Subbarao.
P.S: Now a days, the officials victimized can obtain all the documents in a case, after the investigation is over.
(This article is an abridged version of the article published in ‘Manushi’ – Issue 108 and the article of Ms. Tavleen Singh that appeared in the Indian Express in 1991)
For more: http://www.indiatogether.org/manushi/issue108/subbprof.htm