Date: 03 Feb 2010


WHAT SCAM SIR AND WHERE?/////////////// By//////////// Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi/////////////// For nearly two months now, we have been bombarded with fusillades of what terrible crimes some senior officers of the Indian Army have committed, which even necessitated the worthy Raksha Mantri (RM) to interfere and compel the Army Chief to change his well considered orders. The media has had and will continue to have juicy ‘copy’, thanks to ‘very senior sources’ in the ministry of defence, who revel in one-upmanship of the worst kind when they get a chance to put down the army. ///////////// Let me state unequivocally that no one in the Indian Military, serving or retired, countenances a military person committing a crime and getting away with it. From the time we join the forces, it is constantly drummed into us that if discipline is the bedrock of soldiering, then crime and punishment are the other essentials to maintain and sustain discipline. At the same time, only the guilty are punished. Therefore, to insinuate that persons who have committed wrongs are being shielded, is a travesty of truth. Please remember that it was the army which took cognizance of wrongs having been committed and not the ministry or the media. ///////////// The so-called ‘scam’ is a case where a mountain has been made out of a mole hill, because it suited some vested interests to put down the army. In recent years, there has been a sustained effort to do so. It must stop before anything drastic happens. Now, a few words about the four-letter word “scam’, which has featured in every headline and breaking news. The connotations of scam in the Indian mind conjure up visions of Harshad Mehta (4000 crores); Bofors (64 crores); Fodder (950 crores); Satyam (8000 crores); Fake Stamp (171 crores) et al. The list is endless. So how does the so-called Sukhna scam compare with these? Money defrauded-nil; land ownership – not of military; land given away – nil; innuendos – thousands! I rest my case. //////////// Much has been made of General Prakash being ‘special’ and close to the Chief. The truth is that he is one of the seven PSO’s (Principle Staff Officers), chosen for their seniority. In a hierarchical structure like that of the army, no Chief can make a junior General a PSO. The Chief selects the senior most and gives them appointments that in his wisdom they are best suited for. There are no personal agendas but the media, possibly at the behest of their ‘sources’ in the ministry, has repeatedly used the phrase ‘favourite General’. Were all previous Military Secretary’s favourites of Chiefs? Please ask the ex- Chiefs – you will be much wiser! ////////////// Let me now dwell on the procedure for investigating an offence in the army, which is elaborate and eminently fair, as the accused gets every chance for his defence. When a purported offence is brought to the notice of a commander and he judges that there is need for an investigation, he orders a court of inquiry (C of I) to find out whether an offence has indeed been committed and who all may be involved. On finalisation, the commander records his recommendations and forwards them to the next superior commander. The recommendations do not record what or how disciplinary action should be taken, as that is the prerogative of the next superior officer. This was correctly done by GOC-in-C Eastern Command, but the media was misinformed (another leak!) that he had recommended that the officer in question be brought before a court martial. This misinformation spiraled and made the case a ‘cause celebre’ unnecessarily. /////////// On receipt by the Chief, the C of I proceedings are sent to the Judge Advocate General, for legal advice. Based on this, the Chief records his orders, wherein he specifies whether the accused is (are) to be dealt with administratively or tried by a court martial. While recording his directions, the Chief weighs how best the ends of justice will be met, what kind of message will go to the environment and the impact it will have on discipline. Dealing administratively is a simpler process unlike a court martial, but it is not exoneration by any stretch of imagination, as the accused faces even dismissal and penal deductions. Thereafter, show cause notices are issued and the Chief, taking formal cognizance, orders a Summary of Evidence. However, in this case, the government interfered mid way, perhaps for emotional or electoral reasons, thus subverting the process. ///////////// One does not like to point fingers at a senior minister, but I am constrained to do so as the venerable R M, issued an advisory to the Chief, when he had no legal authority to do so. It was a constitutionally incorrect decision and is a clear case of subverting the army’s well tested judicial system. That it was leaked to the media reflects the callous attitude of the government to the military and an attempt to interfere with ‘due process’, which is the hallmark of justice and jurisprudence. This is obviously demoralising for the military and deserves the severest condemnation./////////////// I see this case as one where the ministry is playing their favourite game of divide and rule, where they seem to have surpassed even the British, who were the original architects of this policy. A change of Chiefs is due in two months and here is the ministry undermining both the present incumbent as well as his successor. This will then be used against the next Chief to ‘keep him in his place’. This is not the first time the ministry has done this; it seems to have become a habit with it. Besides the institutional damage, it is clearly a case of disloyalty to the nation. The nation must not sit quiet but question the motives of these individuals who are bent on disparaging the Chiefs of our military, all honourable men, in this churlish manner.///////////// The writer is a former Vice Chief of Army Staff. ////////////// 000000000