The order comes two days after Defence Minister A K Antony directed Kapoor to take “disciplinary action” – court martial in the armed forces’ parlance – against Prakash, who is believed to be close to the outgoing Army chief. Prakash received the order just two days before his retirement.
Last month a Court of Inquiry headed by the eastern army commander and the next army chief Lt Gen V K Singh, found prima facie evidence on how Prakash bent rules and procedures and influenced his subordinate officers to ensure that the land went to Siliguri-based realtor Dilip Agarwal.
The probe found Prakash and Rath went out of their way to finalise a memorandum of understanding with Agarwal, which was signed by Rath, then commanding officer of 33 corps. The land was being transferred to the army from West Bengal government.
The duo along with two other guilty officers, Lt Gen Ramesh Halgali and Maj Gen P Sen, reportedly ignored the security implications of allowing private entities to an army base and communication node close to the strategic Siliguri corridor, which is in close proximity to China and Bhutan border.
However, when the CoI report came to Kapoor, the chief issued a show cause notice to Prakash asking him to explain why “administrative action” should not be taken against him.
Administrative action being a lower-grade punishment, Kapoor’s decision gave rise to speculations that he favoured Prakash. With speculations on favouritism doing the rounds, Defence Minister A K Antony finally had to overrule Kapoor to suggest court martial for the tainted general.
Though Prakash retires on January 31, under the Army Act court martial procedure can be initiated against any army officer or soldier within three years from the retirement date. The person has to be attached to a particular command to initiate the proceedings.
The Army headquarters has not taken a decision on which command Prakash would be attached to. The options are Chandimandir-based western command or Jaipur-based south western command.
Lt Gen P K Rath who would also face court martial would be attached to the eastern command in Kolkata, which expects to complete the summary of evidence within the next one and half months. For Rath, the process is expected to be finished before Singh takes over as the army chief from April 1.
Before the controversy, Rath was promoted as one of the deputy chiefs at the army headquarters. Antony subsequently cancelled the appointment.