The Armed Forces Tribunal, Chandigarh Bench, has ruled against the cashiering of former Lt Gen S.K. Sahni in the ration scam.
The bench comprising Justice N.P. Gupta and Air Marshal S.C. Mukul (retd) ruled: "…it is directed that the sentences may be promulgated, but the sentence of cashiering shall not be given effect till the petitioner (Lt Gen Sahni) is received in civil prison, which, obviously cannot be received in view of bail having been granted by this Tribunal vide order dated 04-03-2011".
Cashiering is dishonourable dismissal, after which an officer loses the status of ex-servicemen and other benefits. The officer is not only stripped of his ranks and all regimental insignia, but also banned from using the rank before his name.
A General Court Martial had, on February 18, 2011, sentenced Lt Gen Sahni to three-year rigorous imprisonment and cashiered him after finding him guilty on six charges related to intent to defraud (Section 52(f) of Army Act) and violation of good order and discipline (Section 63 of Army Act).
The AFT granted him bail on March 4, 2011 and the appeal is pending.
Army chief Gen V.K. Singh confirmed the punishment on January 13 this year. He was asked to report to Hq 11 Corps at Jalandhar on May 15 by an order dated May 10, to be cashiered on May 16 at 11am.
Praying for quashing of the May 10 order, Col NK Kohli (retd), counsel for Lt Gen Sahni (retd), submitted in the court, "Subjecting an accused to such inhuman ignominy and insult when the appeal against the judgment of GCM is at final stages of adjudication by the appellate court, is legally not permissible nor is it desirable in the interest of justice and equity". Senior panel counsel Gurpreet Singh has represented the Army during the proceedings.
What does the GCM findings say?
As per the findings of the GCM, deliberate and colourable actions of Lt Gen Sahni, who was Director General of Supply and Transport at that time, "led to consumption of 285.923 metric tonnes of masur whole by troops".
After he received a complaint on April 8, 2005, about presence of kesari peas and akra in masur whole, he waited till May 13, 2005, to freeze stocks.
It has come out that on the last date of supply of masur whole by M/s Gujrat Co-operative Grain Growers Federation Limited, i.e March 15, 2005, the request of the firm for additional tendering stations - Gadarwara and Narsinghpur - was processed by Lt Gen Sahni.
Despite receiving complaint that kesari peas and akra was found in masur whole stock, which is unfit for human consumption, Lt Gen Sahni ordered a Court of Inquiry but did not include the investigation of the same in terms of reference of the Convening Order of the inquiry.
He was also held guilty of upgrading 700 metric tonnes of masur whole lying at 29 supply depots all over India, and moreover, the shelf life and warranty period of the masur whole was expiring in 15-20 days, as per the findings.
Lt Gen Sahni approved relaxation in specifications of kabuli channa to M/s PUNSUP and M/s MMTC in risk purchase contracts on price reductions, which was not allowed.
Lt Gen Sahni had 38 years, nine months and 14 days in Army service and was also awarded Ati Vishist Sewa Medal. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant General in 2003 and retired in 2006.