29 Jan : Two days after Defence Minister A K Antony’s diktat, Army Chief Gen Deepak Kapoor on Friday ordered court martial proceedings against Military Secretary Lt Gen Avadesh Prakash in the Sukna land scam, the senior-most three-star officer ever to face such an action.
“The Army Chief has ordered disciplinary action against Lt Gen Prakash, who will face a court martial in Sukna land scam. The Chief has stuck to the advice from the Defence Minister in the case,” ministry officials said.
Kapoor was on Wednesday overruled by Antony, who directed him to take disciplinary action instead of administrative action against Prakash, considered close to the Chief. This was the first instance of a Defence Minister overturning the Army Chief’s decision in a disciplinary case.
As Military Secretary, Prakash is one of the top aides of the Army Chief handling postings, appointments and transfers but is due to retire from service on January 31.
The proceedings against him can continue even after his superannuation.
Prakash was found culpable in the Sukna land scam along with the then 33 Corps Commander Lt Gen P K Rath, his Chief of Staff Lt Gen Ramesh Halgali and the then Brigadier Administration Maj Gen P C Sen.
After the Court of Inquiry indicted all the General-ranked officers in the case, Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen V K Singh, who is the Army Chief-designate, had recommended “termination of service” of Prakash and administrative action against the other officers.
However, Kapoor chose to court martial Rath and issued show-cause notice to others for administrative action, prompting Antony to ask why the officers, found culpable by the probe for the same offence under Army Act, were meted out
different punishments and “advised” disciplinary action against Prakash too.
The scam relates to issue of a ‘No Objection certificate’ by the Army’s 33 Corps officers to a private realtor Dalip Aggarwal to buy a 71-acre piece of land adjacent to the Sukna military station near Darjeeling in West Bengal, much against earlier objections by previous officers holding office of 33 Corps.
Aggarwal had “falsely” represented to the Army that he would open an educational institution affiliated to the Ajmer-based Mayo College.
The probe had reportedly held Rath culpable for signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Aggarwal for allotting a percentage of the seats in the educational institution to wards of army personnel serving in the military
In the case of Prakash, the probe’s “findings” were believed to be that he took undue interest in getting the NOC issued and the MoU signed between Aggarwal and the Army and had also “influenced” his junior officers to go ahead with the deal.
Prakash, being the Military Secretary, is in charge of postings and appointments of all officers in the Army and hence is considered an important aide of the Army Chief.
In the case of other General-rank officers, Halgali’s role was said to have been limited to “omissions” as he had not intimated his higher ups on the happenings at the military station with regard to the NOC episode.
Maj Gen Sen, who is at preset in the Eastern Army Commander headquarters, had during his tenure as Brigadier Administration of 33 Corps under Rath reportedly had “an active role” in the talks with Aggarwal for issuing the NOC.