O.A. No. 229 of 2014. Case: Ramvir Singh Vs Chief of Army Staff New Delhi and Ors.. Armed Forces Tribunal

Case NumberO.A. No. 229 of 2014
CounselFor Appellant: Ashok Kumar and Rohit Kumar, Advocate and For Respondents: Sunil Sharma, C.G.S.C.
JudgesD.P. Singh, J. (Member (J)) and Air Marshal Anil Chopra, Member (Ad.)
IssueArmed Forces Tribunal Act 2007 - Section 14; Army Act, 1950 - Sections 106, 161, 162, 163, 164, 179, 69; Constitution Of India - Articles 14, 21; Indian Evidence Act, 1872 - Section 145
Judgement DateJanuary 11, 2017
CourtArmed Forces Tribunal


D.P. Singh, J. (Member (J)), (Regional Bench, Lucknow)

1. Present Application has been preferred before this Tribunal under section 14 of the Armed Forces Tribunal Act (In short the 'Act'), being aggrieved by the order of reduction in rank from Havildar to Sepoy dated 11.12.2009 in pursuance of SCM studded with the prayer to grant him pension in the rank of Havildar with all the consequential benefits.

2. The facts in nut-shell are that the Applicant was enrolled in the Indian Army as soldier/Guard (Infantry) on 31.07.1982 and later-on, he was promoted to the post of Lance Naik and then, in due course, he stood promoted to the post of Havildar with effect from 10.08.1997. It is alleged that on account of stress and strain, which he suffered, was owing to his having served at different places, the Applicant was placed in low medical category (A-3) with lumber problem with effect from 02.06.2001. It is further alleged that in the year 2001, the Applicant moved an Application for premature discharge which was nodded in approval vide order dated 25.04.2001. The sanctioning authority, it is also alleged, while approving premature discharge, commended the Applicant's character as exemplary.

3. The facts leading to his punishment of reduction in rank are that while residing in married accommodation within unit lines, in the absence of his wife, the Applicant wrote two obscene letters addressed to Smt. Manjeet Kaur, wife of L/Naik Harjeet Singh, living in the same block. On 20.06.2001, taking advantage of absence of L/Naik Harjeet Singh, who was away on temporary duty, the Applicant gained entry into his house, where he was caught red handed and he was soundly beaten by Maj Ajay Kadian at 1200 hours on 26.06.2001 on account of alleged trespass into the house of L/Naik Harjeet Singh. Thereafter, court of inquiry was ordered by Commander HQ 16 (I) Armed Brigade vide convening order dated 24.08.2001, which was presided over by Lt Col Sanjeev Dhar of 76 Armed Regiment, attended with three members, who were Maj Balvinder Singh, Maj V.M. Chandran, and Maj M. Solomon. During court of inquiry, in all, nine witnesses were produced the details of which are given below.

"(i), Witness No. 1 - No. 13683408M Hav Ramvir Singh of A Coy, 2 GUARDS.

(ii), Witness No. 2 - MS- 13324 Capt satyajit Sahu, RMO 76 Armd Regt.

(iii), Witness No. 3 - IC- 47164F Major Ajay Kadian, OC A Coy, 2 GUARDS

(iv), Witness No. 4 - No. 13686803L Nk Jaspal Singh of Coy, 2 GUARDS

(v), Witness No. 5 - JC- 188599N Sub Maj (Then Sub) Birbal Singh of 2 GUARDS

(vi), Witness No. 6 - Mrs. Manjit Kaur wife of L/Nk harjeet Singh of C Coy, 2 GUARDS

(vii), Witness No. 7 - 13692808A L/Nk Saiyed Anwar, C Coy 2 GUARDS

(viii). Witness No. 8 - 13692297F L/Nk Harjeet Singh of C Coy, 2 GUARDS

(ix) Witness No. 9 - JC- 182906K Sub Maj Ranjit Singh, SM of 2 GUARDS"

4. Learned counsel for the Applicant submits that the first charge against the Applicant was trespass in the house of L/N Harjeet Singh on 20/21/06.2001. The second charge was with regard to alleged assault on Maj Ajai Kadian, Company Commander of the Applicant. It is argued that instead of recording the statement of prosecution witnesses, the Applicant was examined as witness No. 1 and was cross examined by Maj Ajai Kadian. The learned counsel for the Applicant further submits that this act of the Presiding officer is fraught with the consequence of affecting the fairness of court of inquiry. It is alleged that court of enquiry was commenced on 27.08.2001 and ended on 11.09.2001. It is further alleged that Applicant declined to cross examine Smt. Manjit Kaur, P.W No. 6, the lady to whom the Applicant had allegedly sent letter containing obscene contents.

5. In Para 'L', it has been averred by the Applicant that during court of inquiry, the presiding officer and three other members namely Maj Balvinder Singh and Maj V.M. Chandran and Maj M. Solomon were collectively not present during the course of recording of statements. The pleading contained in Para 'L' has been denied by the respondents and in Para 18 of the counter affidavit, the only contention in rebuttal is that the averments contained in Paras (k) to (m) are denied followed by averment that the Applicant was trying to mislead the Tribunal by making baseless statement and further the Applicant had never raised objection to that effect during court of inquiry. It would thus transpire that the averments contained in Para "L" of the O.A. have not been disputed in categorical terms. The same being relevant are reproduced below:-

18. That the contents of Paragraphs 4 (k) to (M) of the instant O.A is denied. It is submitted that the applicant is trying to mislead the Tribunal by making baseless statements. It is also intimated that the applicant had never objected anything at the time of court of inquiry.

6. During recording of statement of witness No. 1, it is averred; (a) only two members were present who were Maj Balvinder Singh and Maj. V.M. Chandran. (b) In the course of recording of statement of witness no 2, none of the members of court of inquiry were present. (c) In the course of recording of statement of P.W 3 only presiding officer was present. (d) In the course of recording of statement of witness no 4, Maj Soloman and Maj V.M. Chandran were present. (e) In the course of recording of statement of witness no 5, only Maj Soloman was present. (f) In the course of recording of statement of witness no 6, Maj V.M. Chandran was present. (g) In the course of recording of statement of P.W 8 and 9, only Maj V.M. Chandran was present.

7. While submitting statutory complaint dated 31.12.2010, the Applicant has brought to the notice of respondents that court of inquiry is convened in accordance with the provisions of Army Rule 177, 178, 179 and 190. For ready reference, the aforesaid Rules are reproduced below.

"177. Courts of Inquiry. (1) A court of inquiry is an assembly of officers or of officers and junior commissioned officers or warrant officers or non-commissioned officers directed to collect evidence, and, if so required, to report with regard to any matter which may be referred to them. (2) The court may consist of any number of officers of any rank, or of one or more officers together with one or more junior commissioned officers or warrant officers or non-commissioned officers. The members of court may belong to any branch or department of the service, according to the nature of the investigation. (3) A court of inquiry may be assembled by the officer in command of any body of troops, whether belonging to one or more corps.

NOTES 1. See generally as to courts of inquiry Regs Army paras 516 to 526. For disqualification of members of courts of inquiry for serving on subsequent courts-martial, see AR 39(2)(c). 2. A court of inquiry has no power to compel the attendance of civilian witnesses. 3. The court of inquiry should normally consist of three members.

178. Members of Court not to be Sworn or Affirmed. The members of the court shall not be sworn or affirmed, but when the court is a court of inquiry on recovered prisoners of war, the members shall make the following declaration- "I do declare upon my honour that I will duly and impartially inquire into and give my opinion as to the...

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