Police arrested Gilani, New Delhi bureau chief for the Jammu-based newspaper Kashmir Times, following a raid on his home earlier that day by various agencies, including the Intelligence Bureau, the Special Branch of Police, and the Income Tax Department. Authorities confiscated the journalist’s computer and several documents, including bank statements, according to his wife. Gilani, who is a well-regarded independent journalist, also reports for the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle and the Pakistani newspapers The Friday Times and The Nation. The journalist’s detention coincided with the arrest the same day of his father-in-law, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, a senior separatist leader in Kashmir.
Authorities accused Gilani of possessing classified documents “prejudicial to the safety and security of the country.” He was charged under India’s Official Secrets Act, a draconian, colonial-era law. However, the document cited by investigators as central to the case had been published in a Pakistani journal and was readily available on the Internet. Though journalists and international organizations, including CPJ, highlighted this information in the days immediately following Gilani’s arrest, military intelligence officials conceded the point only in December.
In a December 12 evaluation of the document in question, intelligence officials admitted that the paper was “easily available” and of “negligible security value.” The government, however, did not withdraw the case against Gilani until January 10, 2003. The Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court in Delhi ordered Gilani’s release on January 13.