The Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has restored the services of a second lieutenant, who was court-martialled in 1991 and imposed a fine of Rs 5 crore on the ministry of defence.
SS Chauhan, who was a second lieutenant in Indian Army’s Sixth Rajput Battalion, was posted in Srinagar when he was court-martialled on various charges and also declared a deserter and mentally unstable.
The rank of a second lieutenant is no longer in use in the army and all new officers are commissioned as lieutenants.
Passing the judgment on Thursday, justice DP Singh and air marshal Anil Chopra quashed Chauhan’s court-martial and ordered the defence ministry to reinstate the officer as well as provide him promotional avenues up to the stage of lieutenant colonel for the purpose of arrears of salary, pension benefits and rank.
The tribunal also ordered the ministry of defence to pay Rs 4 core to Chauhan and deposit Rs 1 crore with the Army Central Welfare Fund within a period of four months.
Chauhan, a native of Uttar Pradesh’s Mainpuri district, was court-martialled on November 4, 1991, and the order was approved by the then General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Srinagar.
The officer’s ordeal began when he recovered 147 gold biscuits weighing around 27.5kg during a search operation in Srinagar on April 11, 1990.
In his petition, Chauhan pointed out that the gold biscuits were recovered from a house in the presence of other soldiers and were handed over to the then Colonel KRS Pawar and then Lt General Zaki Mohammad Ahmad.
The gold biscuits were allegedly ‘embezzled’ by the senior army officers.
During the trial, the tribunal observed that Chauhan’s senior officers implicated him in false cases to ensure that the recovery of gold could be concealed from the government.
Justice Singh and Air Marshal Chopra directed the chief of the army staff to look into the matter and ensure that appropriate action is taken against those who were instrumental in persecuting Chauhan and complete the inquiry in four months.