The judiciary came to the rescue of an Army officer, who exposed alleged corruption in recruitment in the Army, but eventually landed himself in trouble. The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court quashed disciplinary proceedings against the officer, today.
Colonel Iven Singh, an officer in the Territorial Army, during his tenure in the 118 Infantry Battlion (Grenadier) in Nagpur in 2017, highlighted the corruption in Army recruitment. In his complaint to the higher-ups, Col Singh named the presiding officer of the recruitment rally for jawans, held in October 2017 in Nagpur. In his complaint, the Colonel claimed that physically unfit candidates were given favours in lieu of money, besides mentioning several other irregularities in the selection process. He wrote similar letters to the Central Bureau of Investigation and Central Vigilance Commission. He alleged that, despite the rule, no written examination was conducted for the recruitment of jawans.
Subsequently, Army authorities ordered a Court of Inquiry into the alleged irregularities on the basis of Colonel's complaint. But, the inquiry was abruptly and prematurely closed without citing any proper reason. Instead, an inquiry was ordered against Col Singh, to investigate issues pertaining to misuse of authority, facilities manpower from 2014-18.
During the course of inquiry, he submitted multiple objections in writing to the conduct of the Court of Inquiry against him, highlighting the fact that he is being made a 'scapegoat' because he raised his voice against the corrupt practices.
The inquiry against Col Singh was conducted at 116 Infantry Battalion (TA) Para, Deolali, between February 25 and March 7, 2019. But, for the first 13 months, there was no action against him despite his several representations to the higher authorities seeking details of the Court of Inquiry against him. On April 16, 2020, a show-cause notice was served to him by the Army headuarters, asking him why his services should not be terminated. He legally challenged the notice while simultaneously asking for the details of the inquiry. But on the day of his retirement on June 30, 2020, he was taken into military custody at Tezpur, Assam, for the purpose of conducting a court martial by invoking Section 123 of the Army Act.
Eventually, Col Singh moved the Bombay High Court's Nagpur bench against his illegal detention and only after the intervention of the court, he was released from custody after 24 days.
Last week, on May 8, a division bench comprising Justices Sunil B. Shukre and Avinash G. Gharote had set aside the order invoking Section 123 of Army Act, and subsequent show-cause notice issued to the Colonel.
The court said that Section 123 could not have been invoked against the petitioner as no offence was alleged to have been committed by him. They ruled that once the Chief Of Army Staff took a decision to terminate his services by resorting to administrative termination under Rule 14 of the Army Rules, it was not open to the chief to change the course and hold a court martial on the same charges, especially when no new material has been brought forth to justify the change of mode.