Missile misfire into Pak could have led to a warlike situation: Govt to Delhi HC
Wing Commander Abhinav Sharma and two other officers were dismissed by the IAF for ‘gross negligence’ which led to the accidental firing. Sharma has challenged the IAF's action in the high court.
New Delhi: The accidental firing of a BrahMos combat missile into Pakistan in March last year embarassed India before the international community and could have led to a warlike situation between the two neighbouring countries, the Union government told Delhi high court on Tuesday as it opposed a plea of an Indian Air Force (IAF) officer against his dismissal over the matter.
“Admittedly, this is the matter where we stood embarrassed before the international community. The missile didn’t land in India, it landed in Pakistan. It could have led to a situation of war and that country made a representation to the United Nations,” additional solicitor general (ASG) Chetan Sharma told a bench of justices Suresh Kait and Neena Bansal Krishna.
The Centre was justifying its action against Wing Commander Abhinav Sharma and two others for gross negligence. Sharma has challenged his dismissal in the case.
On March 9 last year, India accidentally fired a BrahMos missile into Pakistan, with human error causing the unprecedented incident. Two days after the accidental launch, India on March 11 attributed the incident to a technical malfunction during routine maintenance.
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Defence minister Rajnath Singh also said that standard operating procedures (SOPs) for “operations, maintenance, and inspection” of such systems were being reviewed.
While Pakistan registered a protest over the “unprovoked violation of its airspace by a supersonic flying object of Indian origin”, both sides avoided a hostile or escalatory tone.
Six months later, on August 23, three IAF officers were sacked after a court of inquiry held them responsible for deviating from SOPs. The Wing Commander, who was granted four weeks to file his rejoinder thereafter, moved the court on March 1.
Also Read | IAF sacks three officers for BrahMos misfire into Pakistan in March
In the high court, ASG Sharma said the petitioner is gainfully employed with a multi-national company with a heavy salary, and approached the court after more than six months since his termination order was passed.
The court, however, issued notices to the ministry of defence, chief of air staff and others on Sharma’s petition and sought a detailed response within six weeks.
The petitioner has challenged the termination order issued against him under section 18 of Air Force Act, 1950. He was posted as an engineering officer when the incident occurred.
In his petition filed through advocate Jaitegan Singh, the IAF officer contended that he was imparted professional and practical training only for duties which are purely of maintenance in nature and not on conduct of operations. He said he performed all his duties as per the Combat SOP governing the operations and that the cause of the incident was solely operational in nature.
Sharma’s counsel and senior advocate N Hari Haran told the court that his client was appointed on the engineering side and continued to serve on the engineering side till the date of his termination.
The lawyer claimed the authorities did away with the process of court martial, and that the actual cause of the incident would have been ascertained if proper procedure would have been followed.