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Armed Forces Tribunal Holds Former Commander Guilty Of Bias During Kargil Conflict

Raising serious questions about the military leadership in the 1999 Kargil war, the Armed Forces Tribunal has indicted a former Lieutenant General for showing bias towards a Brigadier playing down his achievements and for falsifying
PTI May 27, 2010 15:43 IST
PTI
Raising serious questions about the military leadership in the 1999 Kargil war, the Armed Forces Tribunal has indicted a former Lieutenant General for showing bias towards a Brigadier playing down his achievements and for falsifying accounts of battles.

The Tribunal, whose observation has come as an embarrassment to the Army,  directed that the affected officer Brigadier(Retd) Devinder Singh be considered for a notional promotion.

The matter came to light after Singh who led 70 Infantry Brigade in the Batalik sector in the Kargil war, filed a petition in the Delhi High Court complaining of wrong depiction of his battle performance. Several complaints similar to Singh are pending before the Tribunal.

The report of  Lt Gen Kishan Pal, then General Officer Commanding (GOC) 15 Corps, who oversaw operations in that sector not only cost him a war medal but also deprived the Brigadier of promotion as Major-General.

"I feel vindicated," said a visibly happy Singh recounting his long battle with authorities.

"One has gone through a number of stages of non-statutory complaints, statutory complaints, legal notices and several writ petitions...Finally the order has seen the light of the day."

The Tribunal has asked the Army to consider Singh, a former 70  Infantry Brigade Commander, for promotion to the notional rank of major general and to put the relevant records and documents pertaining to operations by his formation in Batalik sector written by him to be corrected and put in the right perspective.

In its order, the Tribunal, headed by Justice A K Mathur, held that "the annual confidential reports (ACRs) were not written in an objective and unbiased manner" by Lt. Gen. Pal.

Noting that the report of a person who writes the ACRs in a biased manner could not be allowed to sustain, it observed that the then GOC was not favourably motivated towards Brigadier Singh and had attempted to tailor the report belittling his achievements.

"As per the Tribunal order, I will also be considered for promotion to the notional rank of a major general and the records about the operations by my brigade in the war will be set straight," Brig (retd) Singh said here.

In his plea, which was transferred from the Delhi High Court to the Principal Bench of the Tribunal, Brig Singh said he had contended that in the post-Kargil operations report, Lt Gen Pal had falsely shown four of his most successful battalions under a fictitious headquarters commanded by the then Deputy General Officer of 3 Infantry Division, Brig Ashok Duggal.

"For reasons best known to Lt Gen Kishan Pal, he was favouring and giving credit to Brig Duggal and my command tenure was shown in bad light. Though it could not help him and he could not take his next rank, I had to suffer a lot because of this act,  Brig Singh said here.

Due to the 'fudged' battle accounts, Brig Singh was awarded only a Vishisht Seva Medal (VSM) and not a Mahavir Chakra, which he was cited for.

During the visit of then Army Chief Gen V P Malik to the war-front, Lt Gen Kishan Pal had estimated the number of intruders to be around 45 whereas Brig Singh estimated it to be over 600, which later proved to be right.

Brigadier Singh filed a complaint with the Army Headquarters in 2000, charging Lt Gen Pal with bias, which was rejected by the Army two years later.

In 2004, the Defence Ministry struck down Lt Gen Pal's assessment of Brigadier Singh's battle performance but refused to strike down key sections of his ACR written by the former Corps Commander. PTI