Slapping a senior during an altercation over watching an IPL cricket match in 2009 proved costly for an Indian Air Force officer who lost his job for the “indiscipline”.
A Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur on Friday declined to reinstate Leading Aircraftman Ritudhan, dismissed by authorities for slapping Warrant Officer Ajgar Singh at the IAF station in Belgaum, Karnataka.
Singh had tried to mediate when Ritudhan got into an argument with his colleague on whether they should watch an IPL match. A fight broke out when one of them switched off the TV. In the process, Ritudhan slapped Singh.
“Person who is slapped is a superior. You slap your superior? There is no question of any substantial question of law involved in this issue,” the bench told Ritudhan’s counsel, senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, when he tried to put forth a legal argument.
“Army, Air Force and Navy are all disciplined forces and here a superior officer is being slapped?” it said, refusing to get drawn into deciding the merits of the case.
Ritudhan had challenged the concurrent findings of a district court martial (DCM) and the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) holding him guilty.
Hegde contended principles of natural justice were not followed in his client’s case. But the bench disagreed with him and said it cannot brook any indiscipline in the armed forces.
In the court martial proceedings, Ritudhan was found guilty of using criminal force against his superior officer. He was ordered to undergo detention for three months and dismissal from service.
Hegde took a technical defence to protect his client. He said the officer who investigated the charges against Ritudhan took over the prosecutor’s role during the trial. As a result, Hegde said, Ritudhan could not cross-examine the investigator as a witness.
According to Ritudhan, a crowd had gathered at the time of the alleged offence but not one of them was produced as a witness.