A military tribunal on Friday quashed the court martial of former 33 Corps Commander Lt Gen P K Rath in the Sukna land scam and imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh on Army for "loss of honour" in the case in which he became the first serving three-star rank officer to face disciplinary action.
In 2011, a court martial found guilty in the alleged scam for issuing a 'no-objection certificate' to a private builder for building an educational institution on a 70-acre plot adjacent to the military cantonment in Sukna in West Bengal.
Rath and Lt Gen Avdesh Prakash had faced court martials in the case but Rath was the first to have been punished.
"The petitioner is acquitted of all charges. He is entitled to restoration of all benefits with 12 per cent interest," an Armed Forces Tribunal bench headed by Justice Sunil Hali said in its judgement.
The bench said the petitioner suffered undue harassment and loss of reputation by the act of the respondents which if not compensated would be a travesty of justice.
"Therefore, as a notional compensation for the harassment and loss of honour and name caused to the petitioner, a cost of Rs 1,00,000 is to be paid by respondents," it said.
After being court martialled by an Army court comprising seven Lt Gen-rank officers, Rath had filed a petition in the AFT demanding the quashing of his General Court Martial and granting him exemplary compensation for the loss of reputation and honour.
In January 2011, the GCM had punished him by awarding the sentence of loss of seniority of rank of 18 months; forfeiture of 15 years past service for the purpose of pension and severe reprimand.
Quoting the Bhagavad Gita, Justice Hali said, "People will always speak of your infamy, and for a respectable person, dishonor is worse than death." The land scam came into the open in mid-2008 when former Army Chief Gen VK Singh was the Eastern Army Commander and had initiated the court of inquiry in the alleged land scam.
In his petition, Rath alleged that Gen V K Singh had given "undue importance" to the case as he had a "serious grudge" against the then Military Secretary Lt Gen Prakash whom he held responsible for obtaining a commitment from him on the issue of his date of birth which stood in the way of his extension of tenure as the Chief of the Army Staff.