He was called Mr. Petrol

In 1999, CBI filed a case against Saikia for publishing a secret Cabinet note on disinvestment

February 22, 2015 01:01 am | Updated December 04, 2021 11:31 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

Former journalist Santanu Saikia, arrested for allegedly selling official documents to corporate houses, had worked with several media publications, including Business India , The Economic Times , The Indian Express and The Financial Express .

As a reporter who specialised in the energy sector, he had a reputation for breaking several major stories, former colleagues said.

This is not the first time he has had a brush with the law. The earlier occasion, too, involved the publication of a secret document. In 1999, the CBI filed a case against Mr. Saikia under the Official Secrets Act for publishing a secret Cabinet note on disinvestment. The case went on for 10 years before he was acquitted in 2009 after a trial court in Delhi ruled in his favour.

The court ruled that the publication of a document merely labelled “secret” should not render the journalist liable for prosecution under the Act. The court said the publication of a disinvestment document was unlikely to affect the sovereignty and integrity of India or jeopardise friendly relations with foreign states.

Mr. Saikia represented himself in the case and contended that an archaic Act framed to capture spies — the Official Secrets Act was framed in 1923 — was being used to harass a journalist. In an interview, he had spoken of the mental torture of appearing in court every month for 10 years for a legitimate story.

In early 2000, Mr. Saikia decided to turn entrepreneur and started a website, indianpetro.com, to provide information on the oil and gas industry for subscribers. He soon followed this up with two other sites —indianfertilizer.com and energylineindia.com.

Insightful reports

By the middle of the decade, an industry analyst said indianpetro.com had become a fairly respected portal which often carried informative and insightful reports about the sector. A web profile of him says that he earned himself the sobriquet Mr. Petrol.

Mr. Saikia was married to Sabina Sehgal Saikia, a senior journalist who died in the 26/11 terror attack on the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai.

He holds a Master’s degree in Economics from the Delhi School of Economics.

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