Court of Inquiry gives clean chit to IAF crew guilty of abandoning fellow soldier
New Delhi: Unhappy over Indian Air Force (IAF) giving a clean chit to the captain and crew of MI-17 helicopter guilty of abandoning an injured radio operator of Chhattisgarh police during a rescue mission in south Bastar, the Union home ministry is unlikely to press the matter further as it could lead to non-cooperation by the IAF in future operations.
The incident that happened in Timilwada in South Bastar this January had brought the IAF at loggerheads with the home ministry and the Chhattisgarh government.
Both the Chhattisgarh government and home ministry had wondered that how a crew comprising two elite Garud commandos equipped with light machine guns could leave an injured police personnel and their weapons and the costly helicopter in an area teeming with Maoists.
Peeved at the incident that had generated a lot of criticism against the IAF for not acting like soldiers, the then Union home secretary RK Singh had sought an explanation from the IAF. However, the IAF played down the incident saying that matter had been entrusted to a Court of Inquiry.
Nine months into the incident, the Court of Inquiry, reportedly, found that the decision of the Wing Commander TS Singh to seek help rather than leave behind a section to protect the injured radio operator and machine was correct and the explanation given was plausible.
According to the military code demands that an injured jawan, a damaged machine or weapons should never be abandoned.
The MI-17 was forced to land in the jungles of Timilwada from where the crew was supposed to evacuate a wounded soldier. Severely hit in the firing, the radio operator of the Chhattisgarh Police was handling the communications for the helicopter.
The injured radio operator was rescued the next morning by COBRA commandos of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) who were rushed in to secure the abandoned helicopter.
Following the incident, the Court of Inquiry learnt to have recommended changes in the Standard Operating Procedure for anti-Maoist operations increase in the number of Garud Commandos in each mission, bullet proof jackets for the crew and commandos and more medical supplies.
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