Tuesday, March 19, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Sekhon issue gets murkier
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 18
Mud is flying thick and high in the Indian Air Force (IAF) over Air Marshal Manjit Singh Sekhon’s issue with reports now emerging of strong political interference in almost all the senior promotions.

The issue of Air Marshal Sekhon seeking political help to further his professional career in the IAF seems to have virtually created a vertical divide in the force. The pro and anti lobbies have gone on the overdrive and the dirty linen of the Air Force is being washed in public without any inhibition.

The IAF was still waiting for Air Marshal Sekhon to put in his papers after the decision to ask him to do so was taken last week by the Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal S Krishnaswamy, in consultation with the Ministry of Defence as the Air Marshal himself was not forthcoming.

As the IAF denied that the Air Marshal had been given any deadline to resign, there were reports that another Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, who had also been promoted along with Air Marshal Sekhon had also allegedly got the post due to strong political intervention.

There were suggestions that the officer, who like Air Marshal Sekhon, had not been cleared by the board for promotion to the post because of political linkages. There were allegations that an influential minister had directly intervened to ensure the promotion of the officer, after the board had rejected him.

Sources in the IAF said there was no deadline for Air Marshal Sekhon to put in his papers and that it (deadline) was the creation of the media. Keeping in view the seniority of the officer and the sensitivity of the issue, an officer cannot be forced to put in his papers within a specified deadline.

Apparently efforts were still under way to persuade Air Marshal Sekhon to resign for an honourable discharge.

Meanwhile, the IAF today attached the Deputy Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal T.M. Asthana, on temporary charge as the AOC-in-C of the Southern Air Command. He will discharge the duties of the AOC-in-C of the Southern Air Command.Back

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