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Major-General apologises in court in contempt case
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 26
In an unusual case, the Delhi High Court has taken the General Officer Commanding, Delhi Area, Maj-Gen P.C. Bhardwaj, to task for contempt of court in a case relating to summary court martial (SCM) of an army jawan.

The General was ordered to appear personally before the bench two days ago. The court imposed a penalty of Rs 40,000, to be paid as costs to the petitioner, ex-sepoy Sultan Singh of the Rajputana Rifles. An unconditional apology was also tendered by the General before the court.

It is extremely rare for an officer of the rank of Major-General to be summoned for a personal appearance in such matters. The orders have also reportedly kicked up another issue within the Army as to which establishment is to shell out the amount for paying the costs.

According to sources, the court had issued contempt notice after the Army failed to dispose of the review of the SCM proceedings within the stipulated period as ordered by the court. The court had initially directed that the Chief of Army Staff be personally present in the court.

In April 2005, Sultan Singh was tried by court martial and dismissed from service on charges of having provided false information at the time of enrollment. The verdict of the court martial was, however, set aside when the proceedings were sent to Headquarters Western Command, Chandimandir, for review.

Sources said the proceedings were set aside due to lack of evidence and non-compliance of Army Rule 22, which deals with hearing of charge before a trial commences.

The report of setting aside the proceedings was sent by Western Command to the Judge Advocate Generalís Branch at Army Headquarters, but it reportedly kept the matter pending. In November 2005, the JAG Branch asked for the documents to be sent to it, but still took no action, sources added.

In December, Sultan Singh filed a pre-confirmation petition with Army Headquarters under Section 164 of the Army Act, seeking a review of the court martial sentence, but he did not receive any response.

He thereafter, filed a suit in the Delhi High Court, which directed Army authorities to dispose of the pre-confirmation petition by March. Since the Army failed to comply with the courtís orders, contempt proceedings were initiated.

On April 12, however, the JAG Branch at Army Headquarters forwarded the matter to the GOC, Delhi Area, asking him to dispose of the matter. The pre-confirmation petition was rejected, sources said.

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