The navy has left the defence ministry fuming with its handling of the probe into the sinking of India’s Russian-built submarine INS Sindhurakshak in August last year, a peacetime loss that has blemished the force’s safety record.
The investigation is being headed by an officer, Captain Deepak Bisht, who has himself been blamed for lapses that led to a warship accident under his command this year.
This has caused discomfiture in the defence ministry where officials believe the accident should be probed by someone who is completely above board.
A defence ministry official said the officer was in an "untenable position" and the navy would be asked to explain why he was still chairing the inquiry. The Kilo class boat blew up and sank at a Mumbai harbour on August 14, 2013, killing all 18 men onboard.
"It’s strange the navy has not assigned the inquiry to someone else. We will ask for a report," the official said.
INS Betwa, a guided missile frigate, was under Bisht’s command when it ran aground near the Mumbai naval base on January 4, damaging critical equipment. A navy official, however, defended the force’s decision to let Bisht continue with the probe. "The INS Betwa accident is the lone blemish on the officer’s outstanding record."
HT was the first to report on Sunday that the captains of two frontline warships, including INS Betwa skipper Bisht, had been stripped of their positions after separate probes held them responsible for the lack of adequate supervision and noncompliance with naval procedure.
But a navy spokesperson said Bisht’s removal wasn’t linked to the Betwa accident though it happened under his watch.