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Army convenes first court martial against woman officer
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 22
The Army has issued orders to convene the first-ever general court martial (GCM) to try a woman officer on charges of professional impropriety. The GCM is scheduled to assemble here on February 26, it is learnt.

Orders issued by the General Officer Commanding 2 Corps, the GCMís convening authority, have detailed Col T. Jose, commanding officer of an air defence regiment, as the courtís presiding officer, while Lt Col Harish Mitra from South-Western Command will be the judge-advocate in the trial, sources said.

The accused officer, Maj Dimple Singla from the Judge Advocate-Generalís Department, the Armyís legal wing, faces three charges. Sources said that one charge pertains to Section 69 of the Army Act (AA) read with Section 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, while the other two charges pertain to acts prejudicial to good order and military discipline under Section 63 of the AA.

The charge sheet was served upon her when she rejoined duty after leave this week. She is alleged to have demanded bribes from army personnel facing court martial to influence the court in their favour.

Based upon the summary of evidence recorded in the case, the JAG Branch at Western Command had recommended administrative action against the officer. Sources said that Army Headquarters, on the other hand, was of the view that she be tried by court martial.

Administrative action in the services ranges from award of a censure to termination of services. Trial by a court martial is equivalent to trial by a civilian sessions court and a GCM has the authority to award punishment, including imprisonment and death penalty.

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, 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 with 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 court martial. In the past, there have been instances where erring women officers have faced administrative action resulting in 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 lady Air Force doctor posted at Chandigarh was tried by a court martial on charges of abatement to suicide after her subordinate ended his life. She was awarded a reprimand and loss of service.

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