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Army Chief Orders Court Martial Of Military Secretary

PTI 29 Jan 2010, 15:04:56 IST
PTI

Military Secretary Lt Gen Avadhesh Prakash will face court martial proceedings in the Sukna land scam following intervention of Defence Minister A K Antony who overturned Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor's decision on administrative action against the top officer.

The court martial of Prakash was ordered by Gen Kapoor on Friday, making him the senior-most three-star general in the Army to ever face such action. The Army Chief's decision comes two days ahead of Prakash's retirement from military service on January 31.

"The Army Chief has ordered disciplinary action against Lt Gen Prakash, who will face a court martial in Sukna land scam. The Chief has stuck to the advice from Antony in the case," Defence Ministry sources said here.

Prakash, who is considered close to Kapoor on account of being one of his eight aides, was found culpable in the Sukna land scam along with the then 33 Corps Commander Lt Gen P K Rath, his Chief of Staff Lt Gen Ramesh Halgali and the then Brigadier Administration Maj Gen P C Sen.

After the Court of Inquiry indicted all the General-officers in the case, Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen V K Singh, who is the Army Chief-designate, had recommended "termination of service" of Prakash and administrative action against the other officers.

However, Kapoor chose to order court martial of Rath and issued show-cause notice to others for administrative action, prompting Antony to ask why the officers, found culpable by the probe for the same offense under Army Act, were meted out different punishments and "advised" disciplinary action against Prakash too.

The scam involves issuing of a No-Objection Certificate by the Army's 33 Corps officers to a private realtor Dalip Aggarwal to buy a 71-acre piece of land adjacent to the Sukna military station near Darjeeling in West Bengal, much against earlier objections by previous officers holding office of 33 Corps.

Aggarwal had "falsely" represented to the Army that he would open an educational institution affiliated to the Ajmer-based Mayo College.

The probe had reportedly held Rath culpable for signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Aggarwal for allotting a percentage of the seats in the educational institution to wards of Army personnel serving in the military station.

In the case of Prakash, the probe's "findings" were that he took undue interest in getting the NOC issued and the MoU signed between Aggarwal and the Army and had also "influenced" his junior officers to go ahead with the deal.

Prakash, being the Military Secretary, is in charge of postings and appointments of all officers in the Army and hence is considered a powerful aide of the Army Chief.

In the case of other General-rank officers, Halgali's role was limited to "omissions", as he had not intimated his higher ups on the happenings at the military station with regard to the NOC episode.

Maj Gen Sen, who is at preset in the Eastern Army Commander headquarters, had during his tenure as Brigadier Administration of 33 Corps under Rath reportedly had "an active role" in the talks with Aggarwal for issuing the NOC.

Prakash, who had gone on a 10-day leave after a show-cause notice was issued to him in the scam for administrative action, returned to duty earlier this week and also replied to the notice.

"It is but natural that Kapoor would have set aside the show-cause notice for administrative action before issuing orders for disciplinary action against Prakash," an Army officer said to a query in this regard.

The court martial of Prakash would mean he would now get an opportunity to defend himself in the case. The Army has already posted 9 Corps Commander Lt Gen G M Nair as Prakash's successor and he is scheduled to take over as Military Secretary on Monday.

Two others, Lt Gen S K Dahiya and Lt Gen S K Sahni of the Army Service Corps, faced Courts of Inquiry in early 2007 in separate cases of reported irregularities in procurement of frozen meat for troops in Ladakh and dry rations.

But the probe proceedings against the two were stayed by a High Court after they filed a petition against the Army action. PTI