For soldier who called lady officer ‘whore’, the punishment is reprimand | india | Hindustan Times
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For soldier who called lady officer ‘whore’, the punishment is reprimand

india Updated: Apr 15, 2016 15:10 IST
Indian Army

The court rejected the Centre’s contention that the “reprimand” was too meagre for the colonel who allegedly sexually harassed his immediate subordinate, a Lieutenant Colonel.(HT file photo)

The Supreme Court has refused to terminate an army officer’s service for calling his subordinate lady officer a “whore and prostitute”, saying he was punished with a “reprimand” and that was enough.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India TS Thakur said the officer cannot be punished twice. It rejected the Centre’s contention that the “reprimand” was too meagre for the Colonel who allegedly sexually harassed his immediate subordinate, a Lieutenant Colonel.

Army rules allow reprimand as a form of punishment that is entered in an officer’s confidential report. Though the officer continues to be in service, a reprimand can affect his chances of promotion.

In all there were 12 charges of sexual harassment, including physical molestation, against the officer. But the General Court Martial (GCM) exonerated him of all the charges except the charge of calling the woman a “whore and prostitute”. Despite the exoneration, army’s confirming authority issued the officer a termination notice, which the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) quashed.

Challenging the AFT’s order, additional solicitor general Maninder Singh told the court that the confirming authority had administrative power to issue the termination notice despite a GCM clearance. He said the accused was never punished for the offence.

But the court did not agree. “Isn’t reprimand a punishment? Your appeal seems to be more in the name of making it hype. Your own court martial has held him not guilty. Somebody wants to go after him,” the court said as it dismissed the appeal on the ground of delay. The appeal was delayed by more than 13 months.

Singh repeatedly argued the GCM had erroneously recorded a finding of “not guilty” against the officer in 11 out of the 12 charges framed against him. He argued an officer who does not respect a junior woman officer cannot be part of a force. Singh cited two SC judgments in support of his argument that the army can initiate disciplinary action.

However, the bench wondered how the army will get evidence against the officer who has been absolved of the charges. “How will you press the same charges against him? Your own officers have held him not guilty,” it said.

The officer faced two GCM proceedings. He was first tried in 2005 on 12 charges but the GCM found him “not guilty”. The GCM’s finding was not held valid and the confirming authority asked it to review its decision.

On a re-trial, the GCM reiterated its finding but modified the earlier order to the extent it declared the officer guilty of using un-parliamentary language. “Reprimand” was imposed on him as punishment.

Not satisfied with the decision, the Chief of Army Staff issued him a notice on March 17, 2009, which AFT, Kolkata, quashed on July 20, 2010. The army had challenged the AFT order before the SC.