Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, November 25
A summary general court martial (SGCM) trying two army officers for alleged financial misappropriation of over Rs 58 lakh on Wednesday accepted their special plea to jurisdiction over non-compliance of certain procedures during the disciplinary proceedings and consequently they will not have to undergo the trial.
During the SGCM proceedings being held at Akhnoor, the defence Brig Janesh Khera (retd) had contended that mandatory provisions under Army Rule 22 and Army Rule 180 were not adhered to during the court of inquiry and hearing of charge. He said the accused were not allowed to cross examine certain key witnesses during the stage of hearing of charge.
This was established when their commanding officer, who had held the hearing of charge, was examined during the court martial.
One of the accused officers, a Colonel, was the commanding officer of an Electronics and Mechanical Engineers’ (EME) battalion in the northern sector, while the other, a Lieutenant Colonel, was commanding one of the battalion’s field workshop.
A joint trial, presided by Brig RD Sharma, Commander of an Armoured Brigade, has been convened to try them on three charges.
During the change of command, certain irregularities in the battalion were observed and the matter was reported to higher authorities, following which a court of inquiry (COI) was ordered in 2017 to investigate the lapses. Both officers were posted out within a few days of each other, sources said. They were later attached back, along with the unit’s Subedar Major, for disciplinary action.
An EME battalion receives technical grants for maintenance and repair of vehicles and equipment, including IT hardware and paraphernalia. During the COI, it was brought out that bookings for equipment and work amounting to about Rs 40 lakh had been made by the Colonel against this grant while similar books amounting to Rs 17 lakh had been made by the Lieutenant Colonel. The equipment was not received in the battalion.
In addition, the Lieutenant Colonel has also been charged with siphoning Rs 1.86 lakh from the condiment allowance meant for troops, while the Colonel has been charged for failure of command and control for inability on his part to detect and prevent this.
Further, the officers were also allegedly involved in surreptitiously felling about 200 trees in unit area and selling them. They are being tried under Sections 52(b) and Sector 63 of the Army Act for intent to defraud and acts prejudicial to good order and military discipline.