HC Grants Bail to Ex-BrahMos Engineer Held on Spying Charges, Cites Long Incarceration, Trial Delay

The Bombay High Court has granted bail to a former engineer of BrahMos Aerospace Pvt Ltd, arrested in 2018 on charges of spying for Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI, noting he has been in jail for almost five years and the trial in the case may not conclude soon.

A single bench of Justice Anil Kilor, while granting bail to him on April 3, also remarked that prima facie there was no material to suggest the alleged act was committed intentionally by the accused, Nishant Aggrawal.

The HC’s Nagpur bench allowed the petition filed by Aggrawal seeking bail on the ground there was no progress in the trial and that he has been in jail for four years and six months.

The bench directed the accused to furnish a personal bond of Rs 25,000 and attend the Nagpur police station three times a week till the end of the trial.

Aggrawal, employed in the technical research section of the company’s missile centre in Nagpur, was arrested in October 2018 in a joint operation by the Military Intelligence and the Anti-Terrorism Squads (ATS) of Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.

The former BrahMos Aerospace engineer was booked under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the stringent Official Secrets Act (OSA). He had worked at the BrahMos facility for four years and was accused of leaking sensitive technical information to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

BrahMos Aerospace is a joint venture between India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the ‘Military Industrial Consortium’ (NPO Mashinostroyenia) of Russia.

Senior advocate S V Manohar and advocate Deven Chauhan, appearing for Aggrawal, had argued during bail hearing that provisions of the OSA would not stand against their client.

The court, in its bail order, said the prosecution’s case is that of honey trap and cyber activities by alluring officers in order to trap them in illegal espionage activity.

The HC noted that it was not the prosecution’s case that if Aggrawal, originally hailing from Roorkee in Uttarakhand, was released on bail, there would be danger to the safety and security of the state.

The bench also took note of the fact that in the past nine months only six witnesses were examined in the case, while 11 others were yet to testify. Hence, it is clear the trial would not conclude soon.

“I am of the opinion that as the applicant (Aggrawal) is in jail for a substantive period and as there is no likelihood that the trial will commence in near future, on this count the applicant is entitled for grant of bail,” Justice Kilor observed.

“Moreover, prima facie, there is no material to suggest that the alleged act was committed by the applicant with intention,” the HC said.

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