An editorial note on Dr. Subba Rao

Print edition : June 06, 1998

THE writer is a former Indian Navy Captain, who took voluntary retirement in October 1987 after a distinguished active service of about 25 years. He hails from a village called Hastinapuram, a hamlet of Chirala on the East Coast of India. He was born on March 28, 1941 in a poor family of handloom weavers. A top-ranking student, he stood first in the Andhra University in Electrical Engineering before joining the Indian Navy in 1963. In the 58-week advanced weapon electronic course, he stood first and became senior to all his batch mates in the Navy. He was a specialist in computer aided control systems of guns, missiles and torpedoes and also in radar, sonar and radio systems. During his active naval service, he served in several anti-aircraft and anti-submarine ships and naval establishments including the Naval Dockyard, Mazagaon Docks and Naval Headquarters, New Delhi, and received five war medals. He also won the following special awards for his inventiveness in improving the existing fighting devices of the Navy, and his achievements in the field of computer technology, electrical engineering and control engineering.

In March 1985, Subba Rao took his Ph.D at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay for his thesis "Nuclear Power Plant Modelling and Design Multivariable Control Approach".

After Dr. Subba Rao retired from service in the Navy and readied himself for academic pursuits (in the field of algebraic geometry) and consultancy work related to his expertise in the computer technology field, he was dealt a terrible blow by a paranoid establishment, leading to a harrowing three months in a police lock-up, 21 months in jail, prosecution on charges of espionage and violation of the Official Secrets Act (and the Atomic Energy Act), and, eventually, honourable acquittal. Dr. Subba Rao's contention in court was that he had done nothing wrong in taking with him on board an aircraft a copy of his doctoral dissertation, a public document. It was based (with the permission of the Navy) on his work on a submarine and did not contain anything pertaining to an existing nuclear facility or one that was proposed to be designed. In acquitting him honourably, Justice Michael Saldanha of the Bombay High Court "said in effect that the prosecution had played fraud" (to quote from 'Ordeal of a Navy captain', a report published in The Hindu on December 4, 1991).

In 1995 Dr. Subba Rao became an advocate. At present he spends approximately 70 per cent of his working time in providing consultancy in control systems and computer systems, and the remaining 30 per cent in appearing in High Courts and the Supreme Court of India in public interest petitions and also to plead the cases of resourceless persons facing injustice.

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