33-yr-old autopsy report rakes up Samba spy case skeletons

More than three decades after the Samba spy case first surfaced, another piece of damning evidence has emerged to expose the sordid saga.

A postmortem report of prime accused, Havaldar Ram Swaroop, traced to Aruna Asaf Ali government hospital near the Delhi Police mortuary, states that he died of coma and severe pain resulting from multiple injuries, including burns, and that he was tortured before his death.

Like the other pieces of "evidence" compiled by the Army to build a spying case that later turned out to be a hoax, the story of Ram Swaroop's death too, it seems, was a lie. Swaroop was the only accused to have died in the scandal.

The Army has all along refused to produce this postmortem, dated October 1978, in court and claimed Swaroop died of a drug overdose, three days after being taken into custody by Military Intelligence (MI) for interrogation.

This fresh evidence has now been attached to their court petitions by some of the officers still fighting to clear their names in the spy case. Swaroop's widow Anguri Devi is also planning to file a fresh appeal to reopen the case files of her husband's death on the basis of the new evidence.

The havaldar was posted in Samba in the 527 I&FS Company under the 168 Infantry Brigade. He was an intelligence havaldar and worked under Captain R S Rathour. Once while he was posted in the field unit at Red Fort in Delhi, Rathour came to meet him, while he was under the radar of the Army.

Rathaur was arrested in the Samba spy case on August 24, 1987, and not long after, Swaroop was picked up for interrogation.

The newly discovered postmortem report indicates that Swaroop, then 40 years' old, was killed within weeks. Hailing from Udaka village in tehsil Nuh in Gurgaon, he left behind a wife and three children.

"I didn't know they were planning to arrest me. I had spent a week in Delhi and I met a lot of old acquaintances. Whoever I met, they arrested them," Rathaur later recounted. "I had known Ram Swaroop for one-and-a-half years while I was in Samba."

By the time the "investigation" was through, some 50 officers and jawans from the Samba regiment posted in Jammu had been falsely accused of spying for Pakistan, tortured, court-martialled and jailed for long terms. Even the convicted spy Sarwan Das, on whose testimony all the arrests were made, has long since retracted, saying he was held in a torture chamber and coerced by MI to implicate others.

The implicated officials too maintained that they were tortured and made to "confess" and take names of people by Army officers, who were looking to impress their seniors.

Major N R Ajwani, who served as Judge Advocate-General in the Army for 16 years, was also arrested on January 23, 1979, on the basis of his friendship with Major A K Rana, the other accused, and detained at Deolali for over a year.

Major R K Midha, the commanding officer at Delhi Cantt, refused to play along with the MI with regards to disposal of Swaroop's body. He too was arrested on January 23, 1979, and told he would suffer if he didn't cooperate.

I told them there are 39 injuries (on Swaroop's body) and the same thing is there in the (discovered) postmortem report," he says. "I am very happy this evidence has come forward. They wanted me to go and collect the body from the police mortuary and cremate it in the electric crematorium, and I refused."

In 2000, judges K Ramamoorthy and Devinder Gupta of the Delhi High Court called the Samba spy case "a gross miscarriage of justice". They exonerated Rathaur and Captain A K Rana, who had filed the appeal, and set aside the court martial of seven other officers whose services had been unfairly terminated.

In 2006, however, a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Arajit Pasayat set aside the 2000 order of the Delhi High Court, seeking re-examination of the case. In 2007, the Delhi High court duly quashed the cases of the two petitioners proclaiming that there has to be a judicial finality in such matters.

The seven officers whose court martials were struck down by the Delhi High Court are still fighting their case in the Supreme Court, where the Army has gone in appeal.

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