Tribunal quashes Court of Inquiry against JCO

The Armed Forces Tribunal has quashed an Army probe for failing to observe rules in allowing a Junior Commissioned Officer to defend himself in a Court of Inquiry.

New Delhi: The Armed Forces Tribunal has
quashed an Army probe for failing to observe rules in allowing
a Junior Commissioned Officer to defend himself in a Court of
Inquiry, which was instituted to look into his complaints
against his Commanding Officer.

The CoI was initiated on June 21, 2008 to probe 14
allegations levelled by Subedar Ved Prakash against his
Commanding Officer Lt Col D D Manik in Jamnagar in Gujarat.

But at the end of it, while Manik was "supposedly
acquitted", authorities proceeded to take disciplinary action
against the JCO.

Observing that the CoI "did not inspire any confidence",
the Tribunal Bench headed by Justice S S Kulshreshtha said the
Army Rule 180 was not applied in case of Prakash.
Army Rule 180 allows its personnel to be present at the
time when witnesses depose against them in CoIs and
cross-examine them.

"The present CoI could not form the basis to initiate
disciplinary proceedings against Prakash. Should any
proceedings be contemplated against him, a fresh CoI should be
constituted for such purpose," the Tribunal said.

It said Prakash was not given an opportunity to
cross-examine witnesses to defend himself and pointed out that
Army Rule 180 was "violated with impunity".
After being indicted by the CoI, Prakash in his plea had
contended that he was being victimised by authorities "without
complying with any mandatory provisions of law."

Prakash`s counsel had contended that 25 witnesses had
given their statements. Out of which some were submitted in
writing only and one of the witnesses had even sent his
statement by post, thereby not allowing the accused to
cross-examine or question them, he had argued.

On the written depositions by witnesses before the CoI,
the Bench said, "the aspect of merely handing over a written
statement instead of deposing as a witness before the CoI is a
new procedure which is at variance with the practice followed
in the armed forces."

The Tribunal asked the authorities to "ascertain whether
this revised and arbitrary procedure meets the requirements of
law, as mandated in the Army Act and Rules."

PTI

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