The Reality Of Samba Spy Case


A few days back when International Court of Justice stayed the death penalty given to Kulbhushan Jadhav by a military court in Pakistan on the charges of spying for India, the whole country celebrated this victory. Though it wouldn’t mean much till the time Kulbhushan Jadhav is safe home. The similar case of Sarbjeet Singh, an innocent civilian who crossed Pakistan border accidentally had seen the worst outcome. The whole country mourned his death in Pakistan custody. Our country is always high on emotion when it comes to our soldiers or civilians suffering at the hands of the enemy. Then why for last 4 decades, we have overlooked the suffering and torture of our more than 60 army men. What made their own colleagues to give third-degree torture to them? Army as an organization always looks after the welfare of the families. What made it shut its doors for the families of Samba Spy Case victims?

The Samba Spy Case is the darkest chapter in the glorious history of the great Indian Army. Darkest and unparalleled! Nowhere in the world did it ever happen that so many army officers of one particular formation were implicated in a spy case. What started as an individual incident of spying took an ugly turn when many officers of the entire Samba region were named in it. The mystery remains as why was no officer above the rank of Major named in the case.

Sarwan Dass, a gunner in Indian Army, started crossing Pakistan border in Samba sector to make quick money. Soon he came in contact with Major Akbar Khan of Pakistan Army and became a spy. After some time he involved Aya Singh, another soldier too. Both crossed the border many times with crucial information about the locations, formations, men, and equipment. He stole Army’s Battle of Order too. In 1975, IB caught Sarwan Singh and the interrogation revealed nothing much. The case was then handed over to Military Intelligence and he remained there from July 1975 to August 1978. Meanwhile, Aya Singh was also arrested.

The MI allegedly tortured Sarwan to get the names of others involved in espionage. Sarwan was made to narrate the meetings that had never taken place and the people he had never met. Broken by torture, he gave away whatever names came to his mind. Then those named by Sarwan were tortured one by one. They, too, gave random names. All those arrested were tortured and made to testify against each other. Some were named to settle a personal score. Captain R G Ghalawat, Sarwan’s battery commander, was named because he once scolded him. He was given 14 years of rigorous punishment. Humiliated at being labeled a spy, he died of a heart attack later on.

In 1978, Aya Singh, named Capt RS Rathaur, one among the brightest Indian Intelligence officers, who won appreciation for his exceptional service. Sarwan told interrogators that he had collected classified files from Capt Rathaur and took him to meet Major Akbar Khan in the ‘Kandral post in Pakistan’. A blatant lie! Kandral post is in India and the dates given by him proved false as Capt Rathaur was attending his official Dining out in the Officer’s Mess. Other dates did not match too. As on those dates, he was spending his leave in his native village and many villagers have testified of his presence in the village. After resisting for days, the pain of torture finally broke Capt Rathaur too and he was left with no other option but to randomly name others including Captain A K Rana just to make the interrogators stop the barbarity. Thus started a vicious circle of lies, fabrication, and torture. Why did Army fail to make public the documents that were allegedly passed on to Pakistan? If an enemy already has those papers, what harm would it have caused if the court also knew about them?

In 1978, Havaldar Ram Swaroop was also named and arrested. His only fault was that he was an old acquaintance of Capt Rathaur and met him when he was on official duty in Delhi. Only one month after his arrest he was found dead in Delhi Cantonment area. Though 3 post mortems were performed on his body, the findings were never made public. In Army documents, the cause of his death is elaborated as ‘found dead because of a drug overdose’. In 2011, his post-mortem report has been traced to a Delhi hospital which states that he died of coma and severe pain resulting from multiple injuries (around 40) and burns. He was tortured brutally.  Major R K Midha, Swaroop’s Commanding Officer, was forced by the powers that be, to declare Ram Swaroop a drug addict but Major Midha refused. Then – no points for guessing – Major Midha was also implicated and given seven years rigorous imprisonment.

Surprisingly, whosoever raised a doubt, tried to reach to the truth or refused to succumb to pressure, was also named, arrested, implicated, and tortured. Maj Ajwani, who was deputy advocate-general in the Northern Command was implicated after he refused to accept some forced testimonies. He was the first judge to comment adversely on the testimony of two Military Intelligence officers. Luckily Major Ajwani escaped as witnesses refused to give false evidence. In all, around 50 officials lost their ranks, were court marshaled and arrested. The angle of Pakistan’s involvement in the false case was never probed. Khalistan movement started immediately after this case. Were there any Khalistan sympathizer moles in the Indian Army who wanted to demolish the whole intelligence network in a crucial border area like Samba?

The inhuman torture inflicted by MI officers to their own colleagues was unimaginable. According to Capt Rathaur-

They boasted of 36 methods of torture. My body was lacerated all over. My ears were disfigured. My left hand was paralyzed following the insertion of needles under my fingernails; they tore my whiskers, hair by hair….They would tie weights to my testicles and drag me on the floor by one leg, with one man sitting astride my back. Similar treatment was given to other accused.

On December 2000 Honorable Delhi High Court called “the gross miscarriage of justice” done by the army to its officers in the Samba spy scandal which rocked the country. But later on, SC quashed the HC order. The justice was denied to the victims once again.

Sarwan Dass met me recently in Delhi at the launch of Major N Ajwani’s book ‘The False Spy’. At the press conference, he confessed in front of the media that he had named innocent people because he was forced to do so. He accused four MI officers – Brigadier T S Grewal, who was then MI deputy director, Brigadier S C Jolly, Captain Sudhir Talwar and Colonel V P Gupta. His interview reveals all. Many victims of the case were present on the occasion. Their drooping bodies and wrinkled faces tell the sad story of their torturers. Their bodies are frail but still, a faint glimmer of hope can be seen in their eyes. How unfortunate that the soldiers who were trained to fight the enemy, have to fight their own system for justice. Are they fighting for money, position or compensation? NO! They want only their honour back. Will they get?

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  1. Superb write up.It sums up the whole MESS created by MI DTE
    and the SC judges BS Chauhan,Chellameswar,Equal just caved in and illegally reheared the whole case ,destroyed it’s own findings ONLY WITH THE INTENTION OF BAILING OUT UPAVON GOVT AND THE ARMY.This judgment is a Licence TO KILL/FABRICATE CASES AGST INNOCENT PERSONS BY ALL INT AGENCIES
    WITH COMPLETE impunity in future. Major Ajwani

  2. Reading this write-up cause’s me shiver with fear & fret. U have certainly been bold & just in bringing out the ugly & mean sides of human nature in the dealings with own colleagues in ranks of jawans,which I pray should. never happen .I really lost my words to utter any thing for the inwoven tyranny & low thinking of great fighters.

    1. Sir ,
      Your realisation of this mega national fraud is a great tribute and strength to the victims of this open ghastly act by all those in power be it the army, the govt or the highest judiciary. This will remain a ugly blot in the otherwise beautiful history if our army. It will also stain the history of nation till eternity ji

  3. Heart wrenching account of an unfortunate incident. Still wonder how was it operated,who were the real scheming minds, whose brainchild was this idea,who were the beneficiaries & how was the entire plot visualised?
    It’s a deeply sad story which throws an ample amount of light on the then rotten system of society right from army to judiciary .
    Kudos to the writer for this stupendous effort. God Bless Her.

  4. Our army is professional but there are few black sheep careerist.
    Peacetime soldiering has killed the ethos of Indian Army.
    There are many officers who haven’t served in field (non-family) even in 30yrs of service.
    Involvement of two Chiefs in Adarsh says all.
    Today no one sheds tears who miss promotion as they may have rubbed someone on wrong side.
    But many times many exclaim when someone least expected gets approved for higher ranks.
    But we are India. Hundreds of years of foreign rule n 70yrs of Corrupt Cong rule has killed Indian eithos of honesty n renunciation.
    Indian Rennaissance undertaken by Modi n Dr Subramanian Swamy will work good for not only army ethos but people of India.
    Samba Spy case was one of the blackest spot on Indian army. Some of our own letdown own brethren to ‘prove’ themselves. Justice denied to affected must be corrected n those responsible for ‘creating’ evidence be severely dealt with.
    Let us not letdown our own in future.

  5. I have been fighting relentlessly for the past 38 yrs.After winning the legal battle in Delhi HC on 21/12/2000,where shri Arun Jaitley represented us for 15 odd yrs we thought we will finally get our dues including our honour.The judgment was one sided as the Army as well as the defence ministry and the judge advocate general of the Army were comalicious in suppressing the vital documents like the
    1) Interrogation rpt of capt rathaur,capt Rana by IB DYNAMIC DIR shri VK KAUL,the detailed rpt of the DIB SHRI TV RAJESWAR to smt Indira Gandhi stating the whole case was a Fraud,and the 3 post mortem rpts of Hav Ram Saroop who was tortured and killed on 01/10/1978 after just 2 days of inhuman torture,etc by capt sudhir talwar,maj sc jolly and othere with the connivance of their superiors brig ts garewal.
    These vital docs remained suppressed even during the hearing in SC upto 18th Jan 2013.Thereafter the 2 judge bench came to a finding that
    1)there was absence of material Evidence
    2)there was nonproduction of documents
    3)there was misuse of power (under Article 310 and AA 18)
    It is hereafter that the things went AWRY and justice gopal gowda who was not in agreement with BS CHAUHAN that all this amounted to FRAUD which vitiates all actions,he was removed from the larger bench by the then CJI H.L.DATTU so that the larger bench of Chauhan,chellameswar and equal could resort to rehearing the whole case illegally and u constitutionally and destroy it’s earlier findings by accepting a fake document called LINK file which was used to rubbish the Delhi HC detailed judgment and set it aside so that the UOI AND THE MI DTE could heave a sigh of relief .

  6. It is a matter of great shame for the Indian Army that they tortured & punished their own officers & jawans based on a concoted story.It is still not known as to whose behest all this was done.What secrets they passed too is not known.The Army MI officers had made a story before any enquiry was made & forced their story on these innocent army men.It was also learnt later that the Pak Int had planted this story on the Indian Army senior officers (some from MI) in a few parties arranged at the diplomat level,where these officers too happened to be invited. Our own innocent oficers who have already been penalised for what they never did which cant be undone.What they now ask for is “RESTORATION OF THEIR HONOUR & INTEGRITY AS ALSO THEIR LOYALTY TO THEIR COUNTRY” before they breathed their last.
    This is one case which needs to be reviewed at the President/Prime Minister’s level.

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