MUMBAI/NASHIK: The Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad (ATS) on Thursday arrested an assistant supervisor at defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL)’s facility near Nashik for spying. The accused, Dipak Shirsath, was allegedly providing classified information about Indian fighter aircraft to a handler in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
Shirsath, a lower-rung employee whose job entailed inspection of materials, is suspected to have been led into a honeytrap by the handler. Information handed over by him was linked to the manufacturing unit and other prohibited areas of the facility located at Ozar, 20 kms from Nashik. HAL Nashik makes SU-30 MKI aircraft. It is also engaged in overhauling both MiG 21 and SU-30.
The arrest comes a week after police at Deolali Camp, near Nashik, arrested a youth, Sanjeev Kumar, 21, for taking photos in the prohibited Army area and sending them to a WhatsApp group in Pakistan. Kumar, who was arrested a week ago, worked in Nashik. He was booked under the Official Secrets Act.
Shirsath, 41, was arrested by the Nashik unit of ATS, which was tipped off when his activities drew suspicion. “During the interrogation, it was revealed that Shirsath was in touch with someone in ISI and was supplying information about Indian fighter aircraft, along with information related to HAL, the aircraft manufacturing unit at Ozar, and the prohibited areas inside the manufacturing unit to someone in ISI,” said an ATS source.
When asked if Shirsath was lured into a honey-trap by the ISI, a senior officer declined to comment saying the probe was at an initial stage. He used to chat with his handler through WhatsApp, said police.
“Shirsath came in touch with the person he was supplying information to through social media,” said ATS deputy police commissioner Vinay Rathod. The ATS Cyber cell said he was sending messages, photos and sensitive material to a handler in ISI. “He used to chat with the contact person through other social media platforms as well,” added an officer. Police are scanning his social accounts. When asked if Shirsath was promised money in return, the ATS officer said they were probing all angles. Police are likely to analyse Shirsath’s bank account as well.
Shirsath joined HAL in 2004 and worked with the quality control department. He was a lower-rung employees whose job entailed inspection of materials. “He is a non-officer, and was very temperamental,” one source said. Another source said: “He had been recently handed an internal transfer based on his work and he had not taken it well. He was seen to be unstable, and always felt that he was being targeted.”
However, the defence PSU did not release any details of the person officially. “…As the investigation is on, we have no comments to offer,” HAL spokesperson Gopal Sutar told TOI.
The aircraft manufacturing unit at Ozar has several prohibited areas. The unit carries out overhaul of MiGs and Repair and Overhaul (ROH) of Su-30 MKI aircraft. Cops are examining if Shirsath shared any information about Tejas, the Indian-made light combat aircraft.
He has been booked under sections 3, 4 and 5 of the Official Secrets Act, 1923. “We have seized three mobile handsets with five SIM cards and two memory cards from him. The seized items will be sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory for examination,” said an officer. Shirsath was produced before a court and remanded in police custody for 10 days.
(With inputs by Chethan Kumar)



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