Army shame: Lt Gen Rath found guilty in Sukna scam
Lt Gen PK Rath on Friday earned the dubious distinction of being the highest-ranking serving Indian army officer to be convicted in a general court martial. An army court in Shillong found him guilty of various charges related to the Sukhna land deal.
Lt Gen Rath will be sentenced on Saturday. The sentence will have to be confirmed by the army chief and the ministry of defence. The punishment could range from cashiering, or dismissal from service to forfeiture of seniority to severe reprimand.
“Lt Gen Rath was found guilty on three charges under section 63 of the Army Act,” prosecution counsel Raghavendra Jha told HT from Shillong.
The court said Rath, then commander of the army’s 33 Corps, had given a no objection certificate to a Siliguri-based realtor to build an educational institute on land adjacent to the Corps headquarters in North Bengal without any permission from his seniors, even though this violated an army decision not to allow any civilian construction in that region.
The other two charges related to giving army approval to a trust to start the institute and violating military discipline.
“Rath was charged on seven counts including intent to defraud,” said his defence counsel SS Pandey. “The court cleared him of the four other charges in October last year.”
The army has already taken administrative action against two others involved in the same scam — Lt Gen Ramesh Halgali and Maj Gen PK Sen.
The senior-most officer being prosecuted for the scam, however, is Lt Gen Avdhesh Prasad. A court of inquiry into the Sukna scam indicted him in December 2009 for colluding with the same dubious realtor as Lt Gen Rath. Army sources said Rath’s conviction would pave the way for Prakash’s court martial too.
The total landholding of the armed forces is pegged at about 14 lakh acres outside cantonments and another 2 lakh acres across 62 cantonments, making it one of the largest landholders in the country. Reeling under a barrage of recent land scams, the government has decided to tweak its policy of issuing no objection certificates (NoCs) for transfer of land held by the armed forces.