The Special Court for NIA Cases at Ernakulam, Kerala has sentenced the two men to five and three years after convicting them for theft from the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) Vikrant while it was being built at the Cochin Shipyard in Kerala.

Special NIA Court Judge Kamanees. K noted in the order that, "After the theft had been revealed, the same had caused delay to accomplishment of the national project. The vulnerable data contained in the device had been compromised in the diction of security and that reveals a very serious face of it. These are the aggravating circumstances while considering the question of sentence to be imposed."

The accused pleaded guilty in the case and were convicted for offences under Section 120B(1) of IPC and offences under Sections 201, 461, 454, 380 read with section 34 of IPC and section 66F (1)(B) of the Information Technology Act.

Senior Public Prosecutor Arjun Ambalapatta represented the Complainant while Advocate John.S.Ralph appeared for the accused.

Brief Facts of the Case –

In May 2019, accused No. 1 and 2 were engaged in painting work at 'V' and 'W' rings of the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC), berthed at the A3 Berth of Cochin Shipyard. They identified the computers installed and functioning on the Multi-Function Consoles (MFCs), which form part of the Integrated Platform Management System of the Naval warship. In June 2019, accused No.1, being self-trained in computer hardware components, without any authorisation, trespassed and opened the Central Processing Unit (CPU) of MFC in 5Q Ring of the IAC and learned about the hardware components. Both the accused conspired to commit theft of critical hardware components including Solid-state Drives (SSD), Processors, and Random Access Memory from the MFC, for monetary gain.

In July 2019, they trespassed into the 'Section Base' at 5Q Ring of IAC, where the MFC No. 29 was installed, knowing that it was a computer resource containing data pertaining to the security of the nation and restricted for those reasons. Accused No. 1 broke open the system without authorisation, accessed the CPU, and committed the theft of two RAMs, one Processor, and one 256GB SSD with data. Accused No. 2 was at the entrance of 5Q Ring to alert the accused No.1 if anybody came towards the Ring and thus the theft was facilitated. The accused No.1 threw two cooling fans removed from the MFC, into the waters from the starboard side of the IAC, and the side cover removed from the CPU was kept concealed over the air conditioning duct for disappearing the evidence.

The stolen property was concealed by the accused No.1 in his boiler suit and they concealed the critical computer hardware component in their room. In the last week of July 2019, they trespassed into 4R Ring of IAC and again committed theft observing the same modus operandi. The next incident happened in 1st week of August 2019, when they trespassed into 5N Ring of IAC and committed theft. The next was trespassing into the 7P Ring of IAC and committing theft. Further, in 1st week of September 2019, they committed another theft into a 5M Ring. The critical computer hardware components stolen were worth Rs.2,50,420/- and there was damage worth Rs.25,77,823.50/- besides the delay in the timeline of the defence project. Each time the data had been accessed, it compromised the security concerns of the nation.

Both accused persons pleaded that they were only 21 years at the time when the offence was committed and they hail from poor families and are the only ones to support their respective families. They also stated that if given a chance to them, they will lead a decent life.

The Court in the above context observed-

"Theft had been committed of high end digital devices from an Indian warship which had been the symbol of national pride, and these instances had been carried out over a period of time. After the theft had been revealed, the same had caused delay to accomplishment of the national project. The vulnerable data contained in the device had been compromised in the diction of security and that reveals a very serious face of it."

The Court further observed that "The facts on record equally show that the accused persons had been of youthful age, not proved to have undergone any previous convictions and they had been migrant labourers hailing from a northern state of India. There may be circumstances equally possible that these accused persons might not have given much regard for the gravity of the crime they had been into. A probability of reformation may have to reflect in the diction of sentencing. Both these accused persons are yet to commence a family life. These are the mitigating circumstances revealed."

The Court considered both the abovementioned aspects while sentencing the accused.

Cause Title – Union of India v. Sumit Kumar Singh & Anr.

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