Tribunal dismisses ‘Ketchup’ Colonel’s plea
New Delhi: The Armed Forces Tribunal on Thursday dismissed a review petition filed by Colonel (retd) HS Kohli, who was sacked from the Army for faking encounters during counter insurgency operations in Northeast in 2003.
Col Kohli, commanding officer of an artillery regiment in Assam, had taken photographs of civilians splashed with tomato ketchup posing as corpses and gave them to his seniors to stake claim for gallantry award. The incident took place at Bada Nagadun near Silchar in Assam in 2003 and Col Kohli was dismissed from the Army in November 2004 after a court martial found him guilty.
His modus operandi prompted media to dub him as "ketchup colonel". Later on it emerged that Kohli had followed orders from his superior Brig SS Rao, who said he was taking directions from his superiors.
Rao was also dismissed but, later, it was commuted to lesser punishment and was reinstated in the Army, leaving Kohli as the sole fall guy in the entire episode.
In his review petition, Kohli had pointed out that the Army and the Ministry of Defence initially agreed that Kolhi could not take all the blame and should be reinstated with five years loss of service, they later changed their mind. He urged the Tribunal to have a look at the decision-making process of the ministry in the case
His counsel Dil Jit Singh said, “We have fresh evidence in official notings which suggest that defence ministry's decision-making process in the case was contrary to the decision taken by the authorities concerned.”
Singh claimed that the ministry notings on Kohli's dismissal orders show that the Under Secretary concerned had recommended commuting his sentence, which was accepted by the Joint Secretary, who was the competent authority. "But fearing media backlash if Kohli was reinstated, the Joint Secretary sent it to higher ups, who stuck to the dismissal order," he claimed.
This is the second time the Tribunal has rejected Kohli’s plea regarding his dismissal from service.
As recourse, the Colonel still has the option of approaching the higher courts.