IAF harsh on woman cadet charged with theft: SC

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday declined to interfere with the interim order of the Andhra Pradesh High Court staying the dismissal of a woman Flight Cadet on the charge of stealing the credit and debit cards of a fellow cadet and said the IAF was "very harsh to her".

"You are very harsh to her. Don't be too harsh," a bench, comprising justices Dalveer Bhandari, TS Thakur and Dipak Misra, said while making it clear that it was "not inclined to interfere with the High Court order".

It also questioned the Air Force for arguing that theft of the credit and debit cards and withdrawal of Rs 10,000 by the cadet was a serious offence when the same ground was not taken before the High Court.

"Did you argue before the High Court that this was a serious offence"? the bench asked Additional Solicitor General Parag Tripathi who conceded that this fact was not argued in the High Court.

However, the ASG said it was a "serious case of indiscipline" and the cadet, who is going to complete her training in a couple of days, confessed to her action before being suspended and later terminated from service.

The bench also noted that IAF went ahead with the suspension and termination of the woman officer even after the complaint of theft was withdrawn against her.

"Was a complaint of theft against her not withdrawn and you want to dismiss her?" the bench asked the ASG who said it (withdrawal of complaint) was because of "element of biradari (fraternity among cadets)".

The ASG said the case has bearing on the "morality" of the Force and even the Cadet Officer after confessing the wrongdoing sought leniency.

While mentioning the matter, Tripathi assailed the High Court order which raised some technical questions to the Air Force for arriving at its decision to sack the Flight Cadet.

An advocate, appearing for the woman cadet officer, refuted the charge of theft levelled against her and said the access to cards and their confidential pin numbers were given to her by the owner and fellow officer.

He claimed both of them were room-mates and they had shared the confidential pin numbers so that during the emergency the cards could be utilised.

The bench also asked "how did she know about the pin numbers"?

The Air Force had moved the apex court against the interim order of the October 25, 2010, of the High Court.

The apex court asked the High Court to expeditiously dispose of the petition and the commissioning of the officer will be subject to the outcome of the petition.