The Chandigarh Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has dismissed an appeal of a gunner who went to Pakistan and divulged secret information about 196 Field Regiment.
Gunner Kuldeep Singh, who was last posted with 196 Field Regiment near Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu & Kashmir and was sentenced to 14-year rigorous imprisonment by a General Court Martial, took before the AFT the plea that while walking in an upset state of mind he crossed the LoC on the intervening night of December 12 and 13 in 1999 and fell asleep under a tree.
He was captured by Pakistani troops and released on August 10, 2004, near the LoC where he was captured by the 25 Punjab and was handed over to his regiment.
The bench comprising justice Vinod Kumar Ahuja and Lt Gen NS Brar (retd) observed, "He was an armyman well aware of the LoC, which he had crossed and then allegedly was sleeping in enemy's territory. He cannot claim that he was not responsible as he was captured by the Pakistan army personnel when he was allegedly sleeping in their area."
The court also observed that during his interrogation, the gunner divulged the information that he had deserted with one sten carbine and 20 rounds of 9mm ammunition and had divulged to the Pakistani authorities the names of all officers and senior Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) of 196 Field Regiment, location of the regiment and habits and routine and morale of the troops. The judgment added that divulging the information made him guilty under the Official Secrets Act.
He was tried by a General Court Martial for deserting the unit, stealing government property and divulging information to Pakistan and was sentenced to 14-year rigorous imprisonment. He was granted bail in 2010 by the Punjab and Haryana high court.
Discussing the quantum of sentence, the court observed, "…it is true that no minimum sentence is prescribed but once the offences in question are also punishable with death sentence this clearly shows that the offences committed by the petitioner (Gunner Kuldeep Singh) were serious in nature and, therefore no leniency or misplaced sympathy can be shown towards the petitioner on any ground."
The court has ordered the petitioner to surrender before his unit in 15 days.