A General Court Martial (GCM) at Ferozepur on Thursday pronounced Lt Col Sachindra Sharma guilty of demanding bribe and ordered his cashiering along with three-year rigorous imprisonment (RI).
Cashiering is dishonourable dismissal after which an officer loses even the status of an ex-serviceman and all benefits.
Lt Col Sharma was charged under Section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, which says that if a public servant attempts to obtain from any person, for himself or for any other person, any gratification for favour or disfavour shall be punishable with imprisonment which shall be not less than six months but which may extend to five years and shall also be liable to fine.
Lt Col Sharma was the in-charge of the supply depot at Ferozepur from 2008-10. He was chargesheeted for demanding 5% of the bill amount and the difference in the rates of chicken and goat/sheep meat as bribe from contractor Gurvinder Singh of a firm, Khalsa Traders, in 2009. Using a hidden camera fitted in a pen, Gurvinder had recorded the conversation, which had taken place in the Lt Col’s chamber.
In another video that was submitted, Subedar Ranbir Singh was shown taking around Rs 40,000 from Gurvinder, allegedly on behalf of Lt Col Sharma. Ranbir will face trial separately.
As per the army, Gurvinder and another person, Bhagwan Dass, had complained about Lt Col Sharma.
Both appeared as witnesses before the GCM and supported the prosecution. DP Gangwar, an expert from the Chandigarh-based Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL), confirmed before the GCM that the recording was genuine and there was no tampering, said prosecution counsel CB Singh.
Lt Col Sharma submitted through his counsel that the charge levelled against him was false. He also stated that as per the chargesheet, the recording was made on August 6, 2009, whereas Gurvinder told the court that it was done earlier than that. But his contentions of being innocent were not considered in view of evidence against him.
The findings of the GCM are subject to approval from the higher army authorities. Only after that will the punishment be promulgated. Lt Col Sharma can file a pre-confirmation petition before the higher authorities; if punishment is confirmed, he could file an appeal before the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT).
In another GCM, which concluded at Patiala on December 13, Lt Col Sukhdev Singh pleaded guilty to illegal felling of trees while being posted at Pathankot-based Mamun Cantonment. He also faced charges of falsifying documents in claiming transport allowance. The GCM ordered forfeiture of five years of service for the purpose of pension, severe reprimand, and also imposed a fine of Rs 5 lakh. The findings are subject to the final approval from the higher army authorities.