Fifteen years ago, an army jawan was dismissed for disobeying a superior's order to eat food. His dismissal has now been set aside by the Armed Forces Tribunal.
Signalman Ram Kumar Maurya was summarily court martialled by his officiating Commanding officer for "disobeying a lawful command given by his superior officer" as he refused to have food after being punished for another charge of indiscipline against him.
On the basis of Maurya's petition, the Tribunal Bench headed by Justice S S Kulshreshtha, said "disproportionality" of the sentence was "apparent" and "The Summary Court Martial proceedings, including sentence, are set aside".
It said Maurya shall be deemed to be in service till the date he reaches pensionable service. While serving at 1 Strike Corps in Mathura, Maurya was awarded a 28-day simple sentence (of confinement) by his Commanding officer on disciplinary grounds on April 6, 1995. In protest, Maurya refused to eat food despite counselling by his Company Commander. As he continued to be defiant, officers in the unit commenced disciplinary proceedings in form of a Summary Court Martial against him on charges of "disobeying a lawful command given by his superior officer" and he was dismissed from service.
Alleging a large number of "legal infirmities" in his court martial, Maurya had contended that "he could not have been ordered to consume his food. Whether he needed to eat or not was his personal decision and the Army could not order him to eat food." He had termed the charges levelled against him by his superiors as "incorrect, illegal and unsustainable" and said the punishment meted out to him was "grossly disproportionate" to the offence committed by him. Maurya had also raised questions over initiating disciplinary actions against him on grounds that he was placed under medical category and was diagnosed as a 'Psychiatric patient' and could not be court martialled.
The case was transferred from the Delhi High Court to the Tribunal after it was launched in August 2009.