Hours before Army chief Deepak Kapoor signed papers ordering court martial proceedings against military secretary Lt General Avadhesh Prakash, he was at a farewell dinner for his key aide.
That was Thursday evening. Kapoor ordered court martial proceedings on Friday, giving in to pressure from Defence Minister A.K. Antony who had on Tuesday laid down the line in clear terms: Prakash must be punished as guilty.
The Lt General — who retires on January 31 — now faces loss of rank, privileges and finally dismissal if convicted by
“Prakash will be put under arrest as soon as the Army issues orders for his attachment to any Command headquarters for the trial,” said Major General Nilendra Kumar, the Army’s former judge advocate general.
Prakash and three other senior generals of the Army were indicted by a court of inquiry of promoting interests of a Siliguri businessman in a land deal, now well known as the Sukhna deal, in West Bengal.
The inquiry headed by Eastern Army commander Lt General V K Singh, who takes over as the army chief when Kapoor retires on March 31, had recommended that Prakash be sacked.
But Kapoor looked going soft on Prakash. He was only served a show cause notice for administrative action. Harsher action was handed out to Lieutenant General P.K. Rath, who was found to have only acted on Prakash’s orders.
Disparity in the action taken against the two generals fuelled concerns about favouritism, compelling the defence ministry to step in. If guilt is proved, Prakash may become the highest-ranking army officer to be court-martialed.
Defence ministry sources said Antony had made his views known to the Army chief before sending a formal advisory, overruling Kapoor’s previous decision to take only administrative action. Antony’s intervention sought to dispel the growing impression that Prakash could be let off with some minor punishment. Antony’s advice, however, did not cover 11 Corps Commander Lieutenant General Ramesh Halgali and Major General P. Sen, as their role in facilitating the transfer of 70 acres to Siliguri businessman Dilip Agarwal’s dubious educational society was only peripheral.