Defence Minister A K Antony’s advice to kick off disciplinary action against Military Secretary Lieutenant General Avadhesh Prakash for alleged involvement in a land scam is as good as a directive for the Army chief, say defence officials.
The ministry’s unprecedented action, which could lead to a court martial, has left General Deepak Kapoor with no room to possibly hand out a lighter punishment to Prakash, who has been indicted for furthering the vested interests of a businessman in the Sukna land case in West Bengal.
Air Chief Marshal S Krishnaswamy, a former air force chief, told HT, “The minister is within his rights in sending an advisory to the Army chief. He is the minister…he is the government. The advice is binding. The final power rests with the minister in a democracy.”
Ministry sources said Antony’s intervention, a rare step, sought to dispel the impression that the Prakash, a top aide of General Kapoor, could be let off with mild punishment. The minister has overruled General Kapoor’s previous decision to take only administrative action against Prakash.
AV Singh, a former defence secretary, said, “Not only must justice be done, it must also be seen to be done. I reckon the minister intervened for that reason....”
The defence ministry’s advice reflects a sense of urgency as Prakash retires on January 31.
A former Army chief said, “The defence minister and Army chief may not agree on many issues. That happens. But it doesn’t mean they are at loggerheads. They can consult each other before a final decision is taken.”
Kapoor ordered harsher disciplinary action against Lieutenant General P.K. Rath, who was found to have acted on Prakash’s orders.
Disparity in the action against the two had fuelled concerns about favouritism, prompting the defence ministry to step in, the sources said.