• Second Lieutenant SS Chauhan gets justice after 27 years

By Sangeeta Saxena

 New Delhi. 03 February 2016. Justice delayed is not always justice denied and more so in the Indian Army. On Thursday, the 19th day of January, 2017 the Tribunal in the end of the 296 pages judgement gave an order which  said that the petitioner shall be deemed to be restored in service and be provided promotional avenues up to the stage of Lieutenant Colonel for the purpose of arrears of salary, pensionary benefits and rank. The petitioner is Second Lieutenant SS Chauhan who got cashiered from service after a judgement of the General Court Marshal. His crime was allegedly desertion from service and military indiscipline

2nd Lt. Shatrughan Singh Chauhan  from a small village Asar Ki Garhi, Nauner, District-Mainpuri in Uttar Pradesh has fought this long bitter battle till its logical and justified end. He joined the Indian Army and was commissioned to Rajput Regiment on 10.06.1990 and joined 6th Rajput Battalion. In what is a case of a forthright  junior officer getting the brunt for speaking the truth about recovering gold biscuits from a house-to-house search and becoming a victim of framing of charges strong enough to get him removed from service without getting a chance to defend himself, Chauhan continued the fight to get his honour back relentlessly.

The Tribunal also stated that the case seems to be “honour killing of the career and ambition of a young commissioned officer”, who has served less than two years in the Indian Army. The career of the petitioner was  “nipped in the bud” which seems to suppress recovery of 147 gold biscuits.

The judgement also says that right from the very beginning i.e. 11.04.1990 the petitioner seems to be humiliated and was kept in custody/detention without any formal order. While being admitted in the Command Hospital, Lucknow he was brought to Udhampur under escort of junior officers which could not have been done in view of Army Regulation 394.

The judgement calls it undoubtedly a case of malice in law based on biased action. The recovery memo against the petitioner with regard to recovery of Rs 5,100/- as well as leave format proving him to be a deserter,  apparently seems to have been fabricated to charge him for the offence in question which was deserting the service.

“We have already recorded a finding that how the SGCM began against the statutory mandate. Capt Manveet Singh who was qualified officer of JAG Branch was replaced by Capt Javed Iqbal belonging to Artillery having no experience of law or service in JAG Branch, that too without permission of the JAG Department in violation of statutory mandate. So far as charges for which the petitioner has been tried are concerned with regard to these charges Col K.S. Dalal had not recommended for Court Martial but even then it was done. No Court of Inquiry, Summary of Evidence or Court Martial proceedings were held in the manner provided by the statutory provisions with regard to recovery of 147 gold biscuits. Rs 3,700/- were recovered from Nk Kailash Chand who attributed it as money of the petitioner and L/Nk Anil Kumar Singh was himself an accused in the matter of recovery of gold necklace. But even then they were relied upon as star witnesses to punish the petitioner and as informed by Ld. Counsel for the petitioner they were benefitted for being standing as a witness ,” is also stated in the judgement.

The Tribunal also ordered a cost which is quantified to Rs Five Crores, out of which Rs Four Crores shall be paid as compensatory cost to the petitioner and Rs One Crore shall be remitted to Army Central Welfare Fund within a period of four months.

In what seems a saga to match any Bollywood blockbuster reading 296 pages of the uploaded judgement on the website of the Armed Forces Tribunal Lucknow Bench, not only give an insight into the complete case argument by argument but also reiterated my faith in the concept of the appellate court of justice for the soldiers in the form of Armed Forces Tribunal. At least here there are no vested interests and the aim is just to deliver justice.