Thursday, February 6, 2014

Hollow victory in India

Major Bhajan Singh Malhi
Thanks to Navdeep Singh for sharing a televised news account of the disturbing case of a destitute Indian Army officer, Major Bhajan Singh Malhi, whose conviction by court-martial was overturned by the Armed Forces Tribunal in 2011, with instructions to pay his benefits within six months. Three years after this victory, his name has been cleared but he has yet to receive his benefits.

What systemic changes does the case suggest?

1 comment:

  1. Here is his story in brief, via one of my comments on FB on the issue:

    “...Let me clarify in response to all the comments above. The fault in this case is that of the Army and not of the Ministry of Defence or of any Babu. It is the AG's Branch which was to implement the judgement since powers in this regard have been delegated to the Army HQ by the MoD. It was the AG's Branch itself which had decided to file an appeal against the officer in the SC and it is the AG's Branch which has till date not implemented the decision even after the dismissal of the Civil Appeal/SLP by the Supreme Court.

    Also the case itself was very curious. The officer was tried on the basis of a report initiated by a Brig which in turn was based on the statement of a militant alleging extortion/illegal confinement. Later the said militant himself retracted stating that he had made a false allegation. However the officer was still put on trial by way of a Court Martial. But but but...the Court Martial ACQUITTED him honorably of all charges based on evidence. But things were not to end there, the Brig who had initiated the report by now was a Maj Gen and became a GOC and the same GOC himself ordered a review of the Court Martial and this time the same Court Martial without any additional inputs, reviewed its own decision and CONVICTED him. This is Military Justice. An officer initiates a report against another officer and when the latter is acquitted, the former in the capacity of a GOC reviews the acquittal forcing the Court Martial to convict him! Could an officer sit over the opinion of a Court Martial when he himself was the initiator of the proceedings? It is like a prosecutor or an investigative agency acting like an appellate court after the court of first instance acquits a person. A Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal comprising Justice Ghanshyam Prashad and Lt Gen AS Bahia later fully acquitted him, exonerated him, restored his honour and directed that all his benefits be granted to him by treating him in service till the regular age of superannuation.

    The idea of stating the above is that we must not blindly blame the MoD in each and every case, and must look within. One of the saddest sagas that I have ever seen. Thankfully, military justice is subject to review of the real judiciary...”


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