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Dubious First
Woman Army officer faces court martial
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 28
The Army has ordered trial by General Court Martial (GCM) of a woman officer on charges of corruption. This is the first known case of its kind in the Army and the second such trial in the armed forces since women officers were inducted in the services.

Sources reveal that the officer, Major Dimple Singla of the Judge Advocate-Generalís (JAG) Branch faces three charges under Sections 52 and 63 of the Army Act for wrongful gain and acts prejudicial to good order and military discipline. She had allegedly demanded and accepted bribes from Army personnel facing court martial in order to influence the trial in their favour.

A signal to this effect was sent to Headquarters Western Command by Army Headquarters on January 12, following which the top brass at Command Headquarters issued directions last week to go ahead with the trial. A convening order is yet to be issued, though an officer from South Western Command has been earmarked as the Judge Advocate for the trial, it is learnt.

Based upon the summary of evidence recorded in the case, the JAG Branch at Western Command had recommended administrative action against the officer. The sources said the Army Headquarters, on the other hand, was of the view that she be tried by a court martial where she could get a fair chance to defend herself.

According to reports, the relative of a jawan facing a murder trial, in which she was the judge-advocate, had alleged that the accused officer had demanded money for saving him. The Army had thereafter instituted a Court of Inquiry (COI), headed by Brig R. Chauhan, which held her blameworthy. In her statements before the COI, she alleged that the whole issue was a conspiracy against her. Subsequently, she was attached at an Engineer Brigade at Zirakpur.

This is the first time since women were inducted as officers in the Army in 1993, that a woman officer (other than the medical branch) would be tried by a court martial. In the past, there have been instances where erring women officers have faced administrative action resulting in the award of censure or reprimand.

Recently, an Air Force officer, Anjali Gupta was dismissed from service by a court martial held in Bangalore on charges of corruption. A few months ago, a woman Air Force doctor posted at Chandigarh was tried by a court martial on charges of abatement of suicide.

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