11 Jul 2009, 1924 hrs IST, Times Now
An Army court martial has ordered the dismissal of a woman officer from service, a first in almost two decades since women were recruited, after holding her guilty of falsely accusing her seniors of sexual harassment. The court martial, which had assembled in the Division Headquarters at Patiala in Punjab near Chandigarh, gave its orders yesterday (July 10) and ordered that Army Service Corps (ASC) officer Captain Poonam Kaur be sacked.
"The Court Martial has ordered her dismissal from service. Capt Kaur had been charged on 10 counts including disobedience, making false allegations against superior officers and addressing the media pertaining to service matters," Kaur's counsel and retired Colonel S K Aggarwal said. The army court's decision, which came after about five months of hearing, will now go to the Western Army Commander Lt Gen T K Sapru for confirmation.
Kaur is the second woman officer of the Army to be court martialled after Major Dimple Singla, an officer with the Judge Advocate General branch of the Army, was tried on corruption charges in 2006 at Chandigarh since Army began recruiting women as officers in the army in 1993. Singla's court martial was later stayed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in 2007. Capt Poonam Kaur had on July 15 last year alleged three officers of her unit, 5682 Battalion of the Army Supply Corps based in Kalka, Haryana, had mentally and sexually harassed her and confined her illegally when she resisted their advances.
A Court of Inquiry (COI) ordered to investigate the allegations levelled by Capt Kaur against her superior officers had held that there was no basis for these charges and later recommended a court martial against her for "false charges." She had accused three of her seniors, including her commanding officer, the unit's second-in-command and adjutant -- a Colonel, Lt Col and a Major rank officer respectively -- of harassing her for many months. These officers had denied the allegations during the COI.
However, Aggarwal claimed that "Her charges of sexual harassment against Col R K Sharma, Lt Col Chawla and Major Suraj Bhan were never investigated by the COI and the Army authorities never looked into them. Her allegations against these officers have been put under the carpet". He also maintained that Kaur never addressed the media pertaining to service matters. "Had the allegations of sexual harassment not come out in the media, then people would have never known what is happening in the Army and that the ladies are not safe," he alleged.
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