Did govt ‘protect’ Gen Bikram Singh in SC?
New Delhi: Has the government done more than it should have to ensure Lieutenant General Bikram Singh’s elevation to the Indian Army Chief’s post is smooth? Reports suggest, yes!
A leading English daily reports that the government withheld some key facts from the Supreme Court when it was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against Gen Bikram Singh’s appointment as the Army Chief.
The newspaper is in possession of several documents which indicate that the government not only kept the Supreme Court in dark about Gen Bikram Singh but also the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet when it was clearing his appointment.
Gen Bikram Singh is due to take over as the next Chief of Army Staff on May 31, the day current chief General VK Singh retires.
Gen Bikram Singh has been accused of failing to check Indian troops who indulged in “sexual misconduct” in December 2008 during posting in the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa as part of a UN peace keeping mission.
A probe by the United Nation’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) had revealed the misconduct by Indian troops. The UN probe even found children in the area who had distinct Indian features, lending credence to the charges of sexual misconduct.
During the hearing in the Supreme Court, the Attorney General and the Solicitor General had submitted that since Gen Bikram Singh was the “deputy force commander” on “the payroll of the UN” and an “international civil servant” he could not be held responsible for sexual misconduct by Indian troops.
However, documents show the Lt Gen was not just the deputy force commander but also the General Officer Commanding (GOC) Eastern Division that was responsible for the North Kivu Brigade. This fact was not disclosed before the apex court. But, this dual appointment makes Gen Bikram Singh responsible for the troops’ action.
While the Indian Army is already conducting a Court of Inquiry (CoI) against 12 officers and 39 men of the battalion under Brigadier MM Masru under the Meerut-based 9th Division, Gen Bikram Singh has always been kept out of its purview, reports DNA
The tour notes of the then Vice Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Milan Naidu who was in Congo from May 25 to May 29, 2008, also records this important fact about Gen Bikram Singh and his role in the chain of command.
The tour notes also highlight another major lapse that had ruffled feathers in the UN.
The UN force commander had issued instructions to deploy the Indian troops of the North Kivu Brigade at 16 strategic points. However, the troops on their own expanded the deployment to 39 points without keeping the UN informed.
This was a major lapse of command and control because the UN is sensitive about where armed peace-keeping troops are placed in a conflict zone.