In a yet another judgement on the subject, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has quashed the directions for assembly of a General Court Martial (GCM) against an officer and has also set aside the judgement of the Lucknow Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal which had dismissed the said officer’s petition.
The officer was accused of irregularities in procurement of stores for a Central Ordnance Depot. The Commanding Officer hearing the charge had initially dismissed the charges under Rule 22 of the Army Rules as not having been proved, however the order was not accepted by the competent authority which directed recording of additional summary of evidence. Again it was found by the Commanding Officer that none of the charges stood. Yet again, setting aside the findings of the CO, the competent authority directed that the officer be tried by a GCM. The offence came to the knowledge of the authority competent to convene the Court Martial in May 2007 while the final orders convening the Court Martial were passed by the said authority in August 2010.
The Court Martial was convened but challenged on limitation under Section 122 by the accused officer. The plea was accepted by the Court Martial. However, the convening authority once again set aside the findings and directed the Court Martial to proceed with the trial. The AFT also ultimately upheld the decision to convene the Court Martial based on earlier judgements of the Supreme Court in the cases of VN Singh and JS Sekhon.
The SC has however distinguished the said judgements and has held in a detailed judgement rendered yesterday (15 Feb 2012) that in those cases the dispute was as to who was the competent authority to order the Court Martial, which was not the controversy in the case at hand and hence the GCM was clearly barred by limitation.
The Court in its judgement has also observed the light punishment handed to other accused in the same case including a non-recordable censure awarded to a Major General.