V K Singh hits back at Sukna scam order

Tribunal gives clean chit to Lt Gen Rath

V K Singh hits back at Sukna scam order

 Embarrassed by an order of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) in a land scam in West Bengal, former Army chief, Gen (retd) V K Singh, now the Union Minister of State for External affairs, on Saturday said the Centre should challenge it in a higher court.

Singh told journalists that the Ministry of Defence should appeal against the order of the AFT, which made “personal attacks” against him instead of going into the specifics of the case. He said the order might even encourage people to indulge in corruption.

The AFT on Friday quashed the court martial of Lt Gen (retd) P K Rath, former Commander of 33 Corps of the Army, who was punished for his alleged role in a scam involving a land deal at Sukna in West Bengal. The tribunal ruled that the proceedings against Rath were “influenced and vitiated”.  The Court of Inquiry into the case was initiated by Gen Singh when he was head of the Eastern Command.

Gen Singh, however, said all procedures were duly followed during the Court of Inquiry. “The petitioner is acquitted of all charges. He is entitled to restoration of all benefits with 12 per cent interest,” an AFT bench headed by Justice Sunil Hali said in its order on Friday.

“Therefore, as a notional compensation for the harassment and loss of honour and name caused to the petitioner,  Rs 1 lakh is to be paid by respondents,” said the AFT in its order. 

Reacting to the ruling, Gen Singh told a news channel: “I don’t think the AFT has gone into the validity of the action of Gen Rath at all. It is more concentrated on an individual and that sounds very awkward.” 

“The Sukna scam is an open-and-shut case. It is a dubious verdict which will lead to more corruption,” he told another channel. 

Singh joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in March, almost two years after he retired as the Chief of Army Staff amid a controversy over his age arising out of a dispute over his date of birth. His relation with the then Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had turned sour over the row. He was the first serving Army chief to take the government to court. 

After his retirement, he campaigned against the Congress-led UPA government along with anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare.

The AFT observed that as a result of the controversy over his date of birth, Singh was overlooked for being appointed Vice Chief of Army Staff and it “resulted in a vengeance” in his mind, for which he had held the then Military Secretary responsible and was looking for an opportunity to get even.

“The petitioner is acquitted of all charges. He is entitled to restoration of all benefits with 12 per cent interest,” an AFT bench headed by Justice Sunil Hali said in its order on Friday.

The tribunal also asked the Army to pay Rs 1 lakh to Rath as compensation.

Rath had moved the AFT against a court martial proceeding in 2011 that found him guilty of issuing a “No Objection Certificate” (NOC) to a private builder to construct an educational institution on a 70-acre plot adjacent to the military cantonment in Sukna in West Bengal. 

He had issued the NOC after Prakash noted the need for an educational institute next to the 33 Corps headquarters during an official visit.

“I have suffered so much because of this for all these years. But the tribunal’s verdict has vindicated my stand,” PTI quoted Rath saying from Pune.


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