Grants relief to Lt-Col acquitted by court martial twice
Chandigarh, September 25
In a significant ruling, the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) today ruled that the Chief of the Army Staff is not vested with any powers to terminate the services of any officer. This power is held by the Central Government alone, which can be exercised in exceptional cases only on the recommendations of the Army Chief.
Granting relief to a Lieutenant-Colonel against whom administrative action was initiated for alleged irregularities despite having been held not guilty twice by a general court martial earlier, the tribunal held that plenary powers under Section 19 of the Army Act read with Rule 14 have been reserved with the Central Government only and these cannot be resorted to by any other person.
The court observed court martial proceedings were held against Lt-Col Harish Kumar twice and on both occasions, the findings were returned as “not guilty” and then administrative action was resorted to under the aforementioned provisions by the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Command.
“Leave aside the GOC-in-C, even the Chef of the Army Staff cannot resort to this power. Therefore, the order passed by the GOC-in-C awarding a severe displeasure cannot be sustained,” the tribunal observed while quashing the order and allowing all consequential benefits to the petitioner.
The petitioner’s counsel, Maj SS Pandey told The Tribune that since he had been acquitted by a GCM twice, no action could have been taken subsequently on the same charges by issuing a show-cause notice and the action of the respondents was arbitrary and actuated with malice.
Pandey said the petitioner was responsible for recruiting civilian labourers in the Ordnance Corps. After the end of the selection process, he received three letters from the Defence Ministry through the Army Headquarters, which contained names of some individuals, seeking help in recruitment. The petitioner had expressed his inability to accommodate such a request. Later, based upon “mild and baseless” allegations, a court of inquiry was ordered to investigate any malpractices in the recruitment.
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