A lighter punishment for military secretary Lieutenant General Avadhesh Prakash for his involvement in the Sukhna land scam in West Bengal could hurt troop morale, army sources said on Tuesday.
The Eastern Army Commander had recommended that Prakash be sacked, but it appears the army chief’s key aide might evade the penalty — he has only been served a show-cause notice for administrative action.
This has fuelled concerns that the general, who retires on January 31, may be let off with a warning.
Prakash has to reply to the notice within 15 days.
Lieutenant General HS Bagga, formerly director general of Manpower, Planning and Personnel Service at the army headquarters, said, “The army commander’s advice should have been upheld since he had examined the case in detail. The army’s morale will be affected if senior officers are let off the hook. It will also set a dangerous precedent.”
The army commander’s recommendations are not binding on the army chief, who has the last word in such matters. But privately, army officers acknowledged that being soft on the military secretary would give the impression that the brass is above the law.
“It’s definitely a tricky situation for the army chief. There’s already a perception in the army’s lower echelons that junior officers are given exemplary punishment but the big shots are shielded,” said a serving lieutenant colonel.
Prakash can still be dismissed but he will not have to face a court martial.
Army chief General Deepak Kapoor on Monday ordered disciplinary action against Lieutenant General PK Rath-— formerly the commander of a crucial frontline formation — for facilitating the land deal. He now faces a possible court martial and jail.
Show-cause notices were served on two other generals: 11 Corps commander Lieutenant General Ramesh Halgali and Major General P Sen.
Former army chief General VP Malik said the army should act in a transparent manner.
“The army chief takes decisions in such matters after consulting his senior advisers. There have been cases where administrative action has led to dismissal…,” Malik said.
He said the army should remove misconceptions about the case within or outside the army.
The generals allegedly helped a Siliguri-based businessman, Dilip Agarwal, get hold of 70 acres of land near Sukhna military station.
The defence ministry scrapped Rath’s appointment as deputy chief after his involvement came to light.