M A I N   N E W S

Lt-Col gets away with censure
Complainant lady officer gets warning
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 16
The Army has awarded a non-recordable censure to a Lieutenant Colonel from the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Department who was accused by his junior officer of sexually harassing her. At the same time, the Army has also issued a warning to the complainant, a Captain, for making certain incorrect statements during her deposition before the court of inquiry, it is learnt.

This has generated a debate in military circles as court martial proceedings have been ordered against several officers facing similar charges, while the Army’s legal fraternity has virtually “let-off” one of its own.

It may be recalled that in a written complaint sent to the General Officer Commanding, 16 Corps, in June, a lady officer posted in Nagrota had accused her superior posted in the same branch of molesting and harassing her. She had even been admitted to the Military Hospital in Jammu for treatment for anxiety and stress, which is believed to be the outcome of the situation she was facing.

Official sources in Northern Command say that there are no laid down guidelines on the type of action to be initiated vis-à-vis the complaint and such decisions depend upon the evidence which comes forward during investigations. “If there is not enough evidence to substantiate a charge, administrative action suffices,” an officer remarked.

The findings of all court of inquiries to investigate complaints and to fix responsibility for lapses are referred to the JAG for review. It is on advice rendered by the JAG Department which decides the outcome of the case.

Sources reveal that statements on which the complainant has been issued a warning do not directly pertain to sexual harassment but other issues like provision of vehicle, duty orders and procurement of copies of judgments.

“Censure proves that the officer was culpable,” Maj K. Ramesh, a former JAG officer and now a practicing lawyer, commented. “If so, the matter should have been treated like that of officers from other services facing similar charges,” he added. He pointed out that in the past there have been instances where the JAG department had “shielded” its delinquent officers.

A JAG Major who went absent without leave during a trial was shown to be suffering from a psychiatric disorder, though he was later sent on a foreign posting. The sentence of a JAG Captain cashiered from service by a court martial as later revised to administrative action, he revealed.

Meanwhile, sources reveal that based upon the copy of a letter allegedly written by a colonel to the principal of an Army school, whose services were terminated, the Uttaranchal High Court has directed that the said officer and his commander, a Brigadier, be tried by the court martial. The contents of the letter, the court ruled, constitute sexual harassment. The High Court’s decision has been challenged in the Supreme Court, which has granted an interim stay and the case will come up for hearing next month.





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