Death of former diplomat buries spy case

Madhuri Gupta was convicted of passing information to Pak. official, but the data was already in the public domain

Madhuri Gupta, the former Indian Foreign Service officer, who was convicted of spying for Pakistan, has died, her lawyer and longtime friend Joginder Dahiya said. She was 64.

Gupta, who was arrested in 2010, was charged under the Official Secrets Act and convicted by a lower court in May 2018 for supplying sensitive information to a Pakistani official. While sentencing her to three years in prison, Additional Sessions Judge Sidharth Sharma also granted her bail. Her appeal against the conviction was delayed in the Delhi High Court due to the COVID pandemic.

Born in the Vikaspuri area of Delhi, Gupta had property in Bhiwadi in Ajmer where she was living alone at the time of her death.

“Madhuri died in May and I did not know of it for days. Her brother Arun Gupta, an NRI based in the United States contacted me in June to inform that her death took place when the rest of the country was battling the second wave of COVID-19. However, she did not have the virus, but in fact died of diabetes-related complications,” said Mr Dahiya.

The lawyer, who had known Gupta since they were students at the University of Delhi, maintains that Gupta suffered from diabetes for a long time and had spoken of it in 2010 when she was arrested first in Delhi.

“She once told me in the middle of a court proceeding that she required medicines as without them she was going to crash,” said Mr. Dahiya recollecting the lengthy legal battle that the diplomat faced since April 2010.

Dahiya maintains that the case of espionage against Gupta was hollow and it was almost certain that it would be quashed in the High Court. He argues that the diplomat was a victim of a vicious rivalry that might have existed between her and some powerful colleagues in certain government quarters.

“They accused her of supplying information to a Pakistani officer. I found that the information that they were referring to was already in the Pakistani media. The information was already in the public domain, so where is the question of her being in possession of sensitive data?” asked Mr. Dahiya who maintained that witnesses examined in the case revealed more loopholes

Gupta was serving as in charge of Urdu media in the Indian High Commission in Islamabad when she was recalled to Delhi by the Ministry of External Affairs. Soon after her return she was arrested on charges of being in touch with a Pakistani intelligence official. She remained in custody from April 2010 till January 2012 when she was granted bail.

The biggest flaw of the prosecution was the search that was conducted in the residence of Gupta in Islamabad. The lawyer maintains that Gupta was first summoned to Delhi and the search was conducted at a flat in Islamabad in her absence. Even more problematic was the fact that Gupta disputed the location of the flat that the Indian officials checked. “Madhuri maintained throughout that she did not reside in the flat at all and that she lived in a nearby flat,” said Mr. Dahiya.

Gupta was an IFS Group B officer and had served in different posting across the world. Mr. Dahiya says that her forceful personality drew attention and often made her subject of gossip and speculation. At the time of her arrest in 2010, Gupta was also planning to complete a PhD on Sufi shrines in South Asia.

Pakistan was not the first difficult posting for Gupta. She had earlier served in the Indian mission in Baghdad and had a stint at the Indian Council of World Affairs during 2006-’08 after which she was transferred to Islamabad.

Mr. Dahiya maintains that the identity of the Pakistani officer who is alleged to have received information from Gupta was not revealed during the hearings till 2018. However, a French intelligence official Olivier Mas had claimed earlier that the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI had taken credit for compromising Gupta. But in an online interview with The Hindu earlier this year, Mr Mas had failed to give more details.

With the passing away of Gupta, the truth behind the “Madhuri Gupta spy scam” is lost forever.

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