Following Tehelka’s expose Operation Hilltop, a detailed probe was initiated by Director General D.K. Rana to investigate into the intrinsic corruption network within Assam Rifles. Subsequently, on December 2014, primary prosecution witnesses including whistleblower contractor CC Mathew, members of the Malayalam news channel Mathrubhumi (who broadcasted the news) and senior correspondent of Tehelka, Shyju Marathumpilly were told to appear before the Court of Enquiry at the Assam Rifles Command Headquarters.
In the first stage of enquiry, the commission attempted to topple TEHELKA investigation by complete denial of all allegations leveled at Assam Rifles. However, when Tehelka handed over the full set of raw footage showcasing visuals of various officials taking bribe unabashedly, the commission was forced to rethink their ‘biased stance’. Subsequently, bank statements and telephone call lists of various accused military officials were reviewed by the court of enquiry owing to which misappropriation of an excess of Rs 3000 crore of funds were found by the enquiry.
In continuum to the summary of evidence proceeding, TEHELKA senior correspondent, Shyju Marathumpilly was told to record his statement on March 1 at Thungsung. As the only prosecution witness who made the effort to go through court proceedings, Marathumpilly appeared before court under life-threatening situations. Based on his account and findings from the Court of Enquiry, disciplinary action, including court martial, was taken against all of the 14 accused officers.
While the disciplinary proceedings have been immediate, Tehelka’s initial experience of being cold-shouldered should not be forgotten. At one level, Marathumpilly himself was under a lot of stress considering how the journalist was threatened by some for deposing before the enquiry. Secondly, his attempt at exposing the dirt within the armed forces was never taken kindly by Assam Rifles. Despite such setbacks, TEHELKA, and Marathumpilly himself, worked and resisted any attempt to subvert truth. At the end of it, TEHELKA believes that officials who form the top rung of military intelligence must be aware of the repercussions behind absolute abuse of power and position.