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Army to hold open trial in fake killings
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 10
The Army seems to have succumbed to pressure building on it from all quarters in the fake killings case of Siachen and in the process revealed the fragility of its “system” as it today declared that it would be holding another “open trial” in the incident and the venue would be outside Jammu and Kashmir.

The Army said this would be done to maintain “total transparency in the disciplinary proceedings against the defaulters”.

The Additional Director-General (Public Information), Maj-Gen Deepak Summanwar, explaining the move by the Army said now a Summary of Evidence would be held outside J&K so as to give all those involved a “fair chance” at the trial.

He said that the Court of Inquiry which went into the incident of the Army personnel being involved in fake killings in the world’s highest battlefield had ordered “disciplinary action” against Maj Surinder Singh and “administrative action” against Col K.D. Singh and Maj Rohit Lama.

However, he added that administrative action could also mean eventual disciplinary action against the other two. He was, however, at pains to explain as to why this new orders were being issued and why the disciplinary action was not taken initially against the other two defaulters.

The incident came to light when Maj Surinder Singh decided to report the matter of fake killings after an alleged disagreement with his Commanding Officer, Col K.D. Singh. The matter was reported as the Colonel after initially recommending the Major for a gallantry award had chosen to take a step back.

Maj Surinder Singh at the Court of Inquiry had apparently said he had taken the step after the Commanding Officer had allegedly asked him to use his “imagination and initiative”, which led to his taking the actions for fake killings.

The Army in a statement here said that it was to proceed against the officer (Maj Surinder Singh) and others “emerging culpable” but could not do so as Maj Surinder Singh was evacuated on medical grounds from Leh to Chandigarh.

While the Court of Inquiry was finalised on February 3, the orders to attach Maj Surinder Singh to a unit in J&K to proceed against him legally were issued only on April 19. The Major then moved the court and sought a stay on his attachment.

There is no explanation as to why it could almost two and a half months for it to decide to proceed legally against Maj Surinder Singh. Besides, the Army now says that the open trial is being held “to ensure fairness in justice and also punish any other erring officers, irrespective of their rank and level, should any such evidence come to light during these proceedings”.

So was it that there was no “fairness in justice” when the Court of Inquiry was held, question defence experts.

There has been a major outcry against the Army’s “system” and the action it took against the “whistle blower” while overlooking the lapses of the other two officers. Even Defence Minister George Fernandes has gone on record saying that strict action should be taken against all erring officers.

Reacting to a query whether the move was being undertaken under pressure, General Summanwar said: “Why should we be under pressure. We don’t hold any brief for anyone”.

Incidentally, the Army’s decision comes just a day before the case of Maj Surinder Singh seeking to stop his attachment to 6 Kumaon Regiment comes up before the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

General Summanwar said the Court of Inquiry had found the culpable involvement of the other two also and they could face “even graver consequences”.

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