The Chandigarh Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has cleared the way for army to dismiss a Colonel for corruption after a gap of nearly 20 years. There was a stay on the promulgation of the general court martial (GCM) for the past 20 years, which has now been lifted with the dismissal of a petition by Col RBS Bisht (retd) in AFT.
The court of inquiry, dated September 11, 1992, pointed out that Col Bisht, as commandant of the ammunition depot of Dappar, purchased sub-standard stores at exorbitant rates and flouted local purchase instructions.
It also stated that local purchase has been carried out not because it was "required but because it was used as a means to gain personal pecuniary benefits" by Col Bisht and his junior Lt Col JS Puri.
"To curb the spread of this pernicious disease of corruption in the ar my, severest possible action will only meet the ends of justice', it added.
After the transfer of Col Bisht from Dappar, the new officer, who joined on March 3, 1992, had noticed the discrepancies and the ar my authorities initiated the inquiry thereafter.
The Punjab and Haryana high court, while hearing Col Bisht's petition against the court of inquiry on January 16, 1995, had restrained the army authorities from confirming the GCM order.
Later, the petition was transferred to Chandigarh bench of AFT. The GCM had dismissed Bisht, but it could not be confirmed as this petition was pending.
Bisht, after retirement, was re-employed from 1993 to 1995 in the army but in the rank of Captain.
He had contended that the Army Act does not apply on him. While dismissing Col Bisht's contention, the AFT ruled that an "ex-army man who is re-employed in the ar my is subject to the Army Act".
The bench, comprising Justice Prakash Krishan and Air Marshal SC Mukul (retd), also ruled, "…whatever may be the status of the petitioner due to his re-employment in the army, he can be tried and punished in view of the section 123 of the Army act, his retirement notwithstanding.
The contention of the petitioner that he cannot be tried and punished and hence the court of inquiry proceedings are liable to be set aside is meritless and is hereby rejected".