Sukna land scam: SC rejects Prakash's plea against Court of inquiry

Sukna land scam: SC rejects Prakash's plea against Court of inquiry

"Once we start digging, many skeletons will tumble out. Either it will spite you or them (army)," a bench of Justices V S Sirpurkar and Mukundakam Sharma, snapped at senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi who claimed violation of rules by the Army in directing the COI.
Prakash was indicted by an Army COI for his alleged role in issuing of No-objection Certificate to a private realtor Dilip Agarwal for building an educational institute on a 71-acre land adjacent to the Sukna military station in West Bengal.The apex court also rejected Prakash's argument that the COI was untenable as the three-member panel included two major general rank officers who were junior to him in the hierarchy.

"Your argument is not valid. Even the Supreme Court judges submit themselves for inquiry before the high court," the bench remarked, in an oblique reference to the apex court's petition in the Delhi High Court challenging the CIC's order that the office of the Chief Justice of India comes within the purview of the RTI Act.

The apex court said the army officer should submit himself before the COI and can later approach the court if he feels aggrieved by the final outcome."It is only a fact finding committee. Why don't you face it. We will go only by the rule and the Act. This is all premature," the apex court said referring to the petition. Earlier, the counsel argued there was no scam involved and the status of the land has not changed as it was still in the possession of the Army.

"You have lost the battle!" the bench remarked in a lighter vein while dismissing the petition.

Prakash had approached the apex court challenging the order of COI after the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) directed a fresh Court of Inquiry giving him opportunity to cross-examine six witnesses.

Prakash, who retired from the Army on January 31, had contended the COI was bad in law as it was not in accordance with the Army Rule 180 which requires that examination (recording of statements) of witnesses have to be done in the presence of the accused officer.

The AFT, which had given him partial relief of cross-examining the witnesses, had asked Prakash to report before the COI in Kolkata at the Army's Eastern Command Headquarters.Prakash would have to face a court martial in the case if the court of inquiry finds prima facie evidence of his culpability.

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