In a scathing indictment of military system of justice in general and senior serving and retired Indian Air Force officers in particular, the Gauhati High Court has quashed all disciplinary proceedings against a decorated Air Commodore who was framed on false charges of having an affair with junior officer's wife for having pointed out corruption in the construction of an airbase for Sukhoi-30 MKI aircraft in Assam.
The Gauhati High Court has severely criticised the role of a former Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Eastern Air Command, Air Marshal S Varthman, as well as the present Commandant of National Defence Academy, Air Marshal KS Gill, for the “abuse and misuse” of the “power and machinery” of the air force in the framing of the officer who tried to stem the corruption in the airbase which was to house the frontline fighter aircraft of the IAF.
While Air Marshal Varthman has now retired from service, Air Marshal Gill was earlier posted as Senior Air Staff Officer (SASO) of Eastern Air Command in the rank of Air Vice Marshal and was accused by Air Commodore Mrigendra Singh of not acting on his complaints of poor quality of work in the air base.
Air Commodore Mrigendra Singh had been posted as Air Officer Commanding Air Force Station Chabua in
Assam which was to station
Sukhoi-30 MKI fighters and major works of construction for this project were
on. He found that the quality of work was sub-standard and complained to his
superiors numerous times to no avail.
In the meantime engines of four Sukhoi-30 MKI aircraft were damaged because of the substandard quality of work and this caused a loss of crores of rupees to the exchequer.
Air Commodore Singh alleged in his petition that even though there was a nexus between the contractor and the then Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Air Command, he was finally able to get the contractor blacklisted. All his efforts were allegedly not appreciated by the top brass and he was falsely accused of sexually exploiting his junior officers’ wives.
A Court of Inquiry was later instituted against the officer for and phone call records of one lady who was falsely accused of having an improper relationship were also illegally procured by air force officers.
The Gauhati high court found that various irregularities were committed by the air force before and during the course of the inquiry and that the officer was deliberately targeted.
The high court has said in its judgement that, ”The mala fide origin of the whole Court of Inquiry and the disciplinary proceedings is apparent from a cursory look at the time-line inasmuch as it was after the petitioner’s complaints that the so-called anonymous letters started materializing out of nowhere and in March-April, 2012, discreet inquiries were initiated and after the petitioner’s final complaint, in May, 2012, seeking enquiry into sub-standard construction work at the Airbase, at Chabua, the petitioner was posted to Jaipur in July and, within a week thereafter, the Court of Inquiry was convened”.
The role of the Armed Forces Tribunal’s Gauhati Bench has also come in for criticism by the Gauhati High court which observed that the AFT bench had passed orders which were “illegal” and “not sustainable in law” while granting no relief to Air Commodore Singh in a petition filed by him.
The entire sordid affair shows how military authorities do not bat an eyelid in falsely implicating anyone who do not toe their line. It also goes to show that there is complete and utter disregard of rank or decoration or professional competence when anyone is framed with full backing of the "system".
More sadly, the Air Force authorities did not even care for the reputation of an officer's wife and her husband, a Wing Commander, before falsely implicating her with the Air Commodore. No senior officer through the chain of command cared to interfere in this blatant misuse of power, not even the AFT, and it was only the civilian justice system which ultimately came to the aid of the beleaguered officer. In fact, the less said about the conduct of the AFT bench of Gauhati the better. Serious questions should be raised about the impartiality of certain AFT members and the manner in which they go about dispensing justice, or rather, denying justice.
Air Commodore Mrigendra Singh's case is a stark reminder to all and sundry that there has to be close check kept on the actions of senior officers who try to muzzle the voice of honest and upright officers. This officer played by the book, did not leak his story to the media and expected justice from his brother officers in uniform, but he got nothing. It is a sad day for any service when honest men are castigated while the dishonest reap the benefits of greed.