Row over food: HC allows wife of BSF jawan to meet him

Row over food: HC allows wife of BSF jawan to meet him
The Delhi High court today asked the Centre to allow the wife of the BSF jawan, who went public through the social media alleging poor quality food being served to soldiers, to meet and stay with him for two days at the base where he is posted at present. The direction by a division bench of Justices G S Sistani and Vinod Goel came after Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sanjay Jain informed the court that BSF jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav is not under any illegal confinement and he has been shifted to another battalion, 88th Bn HQRS at Kalibari, Samba in Jammu.

Taking note of the submission, the bench said if the wife has an apprehension that her husband is under threat, she and their son be allowed to meet the soldier. It also said, "We should not get into logistics of any kind, the wife must be allowed to meet him and let us burst the bubble." The bench further directed the ASG, who was representing the Centre and BSF, to make all possible arrangements for the wife to meet her husband and there should be no difficulties while she visits the place.

The court's direction came after the jawan's wife Sharmila Devi moved the court by way of a habeas corpus plea, alleging that her husband is untraceable and the family has been unable to contact him for the last few days. Advocate Manish Tewari, appearing for the woman, said that since February 7, the wife was not able to speak to her husband and even the BSF chief did not reply to the representation sent by the family in this regard.

They were not even informed about the disciplinary action being taken against Yadav for his alleged video, which went viral on the social media. Yadav had on January 9 posted a video on Facebook which showed a meal box comprising a watery soup-like dal, which he said had only turmeric and salt and a burnt chapatti.

The high court bench asked the authorities concerned to provide the wife the mobile number of her husband along with the present address of posting. "We are looking at the wife who has an apprehension that her husband is under illegal detention," the bench said, adding that it was not satisfied with the call chart produced by the department showing that the couple were in touch over phone. The ASG said, "We completely deny that he (Yadav) is under arrest or detention. He has only been moved on February 7 from his 29th battalion to 89th BSF battalion in Jammu."

Jain submitted that this is a frivolous petition and if these kind of pleas are entertained it will be encouraging publicity. The matter concerns the forces, he said. This prompted the bench to ask the ASG "why your officers are so insensitive. Why no reply of their representation, which was sent by the wife on February 7," the bench said, adding that "you file your affidavit and we can dispose of the matter". "We do not want to come in the way of your rule. But we are looking at the wife who is apprehensive," the bench said. The ASG said that he has no problem if wife meets her husband.

To this, the court said that "we are now listing the matter for February 15, by when the wife will be able to visit her husband and return". Yadav in his video had said this is what jawans were served at mealtime on duty at places including the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan and that jawans often went to bed on empty stomach. Pursuant to the video going viral on the social media, the Prime Minister's Office had sought a detailed factual report on it from the Union Home Ministry and BSF.

A PIL was also filed in the Delhi High Court seeking a direction to the government to depute higher officers to supervise cooking of proper healthy food and its distribution. It sought a status report regarding the quality of food served to soldiers along the LoC. The high court had issued notice on the petition to various paramilitary forces, including the Border Security Force (BSF), seeking their stand on the allegation of poor quality food being served to the troops.

It had also directed BSF to produce before it the investigation report and the steps taken with regard to the allegations levelled by the BSF jawan. Less than a month after the PIL was filed, Yadav's wife approached the court claiming that the soldier is untraceable and that they have not been able to reach him. She sought a high-level enquiry into his disappearance as well as the recent rejection of his plea for voluntary retirement.

Sharmila, through her counsel, told the court that she and her elder brother had met the BSF director general who had assured them that a "fair inquiry as per procedure" will be conducted in the case. The counsel also said that the BSF DG told them that the jawan was hospitalised. Earlier, BSF had said that Yadav's plea under the Voluntary Retirement Scheme was cancelled as a Court of Inquiry (CoI) was pending against him. 
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