New Delhi: Virtually indicting former Army chief and Union Minister Gen VK Singh, the Armed Forces Tribunal on Friday quashed the court martial of Lt Gen PK Rath who was punished for his alleged role in a land dealing in West Bengal.
In 2011, a court martial had found Rath guilty in the alleged scam for issuing a 'no-objection certificate' to a private builder for building an educational institution on a 70-acre plot adjacent to the military cantonment in Sukna in West Bengal.
The land deal came into the open in mid-2008 when former Army chief Gen VK Singh was the Eastern Army Commander and had initiated the court of inquiry in the alleged land scam.
The Tribunal imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh on the Army for "harassment and loss of honour" for Lt Gen Rath in the case in which he became the first serving three-star rank officer to face disciplinary action.
"The petitioner is acquitted of all charges. He is entitled to restoration of all benefits with 12 per cent interest," an Armed Forces Tribunal bench headed by Justice Sunil Hali said in its judgement.
The bench said the petitioner suffered undue harassment and loss of reputation by the act of the respondents which, if not compensated, would be a travesty of justice.
"Therefore, as a notional compensation for the harassment and loss of honour and name caused to the petitioner, a cost of Rs 1,00,000 is to be paid by respondents," it said.
The Tribunal allowed Rath's petition in which he had alleged that Gen VK Singh had given "undue importance" to the case as he had a "serious grudge" against the then Military Secretary Lt Gen Avdesh Prakash whom he held responsible for obtaining a commitment from him on the issue of his date of birth, which stood in the way of his extension of tenure as the Chief of the Army Staff.
The Tribunal said some of the witnesses in the case have been indicted for lapses but they have been given lighter sentences by the Army.
"As a matter of fact, some of them have been promoted by the Chief of Army Staff, which was done after their statements were recorded by the General Court Martial, after setting aside their sentences," the tribunal said.