Krishnadas Rajagopal : New Delhi, Tue Apr 17 2012, 00:50 hrs
The Supreme Court used terms like “blunders committed” and “bungling up” to describe the goings-on in the the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), the government’s ultra-secretive technical intelligence wing under the court’s scanner following allegations of corruption and financial irregularities.
A Bench of Justices H L Dattu and C K Prasad said in ab open court on Monday that the government has filed its third and latest status report. The hearing was based on a PIL filed by V K Mittal, a scientist who had pioneered the formation of the NTRO but later pulled out after being “disgusted” by the agency’s functioning.
Referring to the status report filed in a sealed cover by Additional Solicitor General Harin Raval, the SC informed Mittal’s lawyer, Jayant Bhushan, that “some progress has been made and they are seriously considering some inquiries and even termination of some officers after consulting the Prime Minister’s Office”.
“So far three reports have been filed. These reports go into the affairs of the NTRO… they have pointed blunders committed by these people and where they have committed the blunders. Steps are being taken, they say, and amounts lost should be adjusted,” the Bench observed.
“We will give them time till July 30. If by that time they don’t comply, we will make them comply. On July 30, we will give the matter a final look. Further hearing is not required. There has been bungling,” the court said.
The court had decided to keep an eye on the NTRO after the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) exposed the alleged irregularities involving top NTRO bosses in a special audit report tagged “top secret”.
The apex court had issued notices to the Union of India through the Prime Minister’s Office, Central Vigilance Commission, NTRO through its chairman, and the CAG in August 2011.
Created in 2004 under the Prime Minister’s Office, the NTRO essentially deals with missile monitoring, satellite and airborne imagery, cyber patrolling and security, cyber offensive operations, communication support systems, as well as cryptology.
Mittal had approached the SC after the Delhi High Court on April 16, 2011 refused to take any action, leaving it to the CAG “to proceed in accordance with law”. In his petition, Mittal submitted that mere disciplinary proceedings against the errant officers of NTRO was not enough as the “misdeeds of those officers warrant initiation of criminal proceedings”.