M A I N   N E W S

Sukna Scam
Lt Gen Prakash sacked
Sukna scam Found guilty; he becomes the senior most Army officer to be dismissed
Ajay Banerjee & Bijay Shankar Bora

New Delhi/Guwahati, Dec 3
An Indian Army Court has found that a former Military Secretary, Lieutenant General Avadesh Prakash was guilty on three counts for his involvement in the Sukna land scam that rocked the Army in the late 2008. He has been dismissed from service making him the senior most Army officer to have faced a Court Martial and be dismissed from the service.

Lt Gen Avadesh Prakash has the right to appeal the verdict in the High Court followed by second appeal, if needed, in the Supreme Court. The Army Court has exonerated him on one of the four charges that related to pecuniary gains - financial corruption. Army Court is a body under the Army Act.

Though Gen Prakash retired in January 2010, the Army Act allows for punishment to be handed out till three years after the retirement. Hence, he now stands dismissed from service.

Military secretary (MS) is a crucial position. The MS decides on all postings and transfers of senior officers. The Court Martial held that Lt Gen Avadesh Prakash was guilty of misusing his position under the Army Act section 45; having a conduct unbecoming of his position as an officer under section 63 and an intent to defraud under section 52.

Following the court verdict, Lt Gen Prakash will not get any benefits like pension, medical facilities and provident fund. He will also lose his rank and other decorations.

When Army Chief Gen VK Singh had taken over in March 2010 he had announced a ‘clean-up’ operation, saying “we want to set our own culture right… improve the internal health of the organisation… the Army value system has to be different from the civil society”.

Earlier, another senior officer, Lieutenant General P K Rath, who was the 33 Corps Commander when the incident occurred, was court-martialled in the same case. The case dates back to 2008 and involves the transfer of the land next to the Army's 33 Corps Headquarters in Siliguri, West Bengal, to a real estate developer Dilip Agrawal.

It was Lt Gen Rath's chief of staff, the then Major General Ramesh Halgali who blew the whistle on the land transfer and objected to the NoC being granted. Maj Gen Halgali initially faced the music but was later cleared of all the charges. He was promoted as Lt General and commanded the Jallandhar-based 11 Corps.

Before the Court Martial was ordered, the Army, at the behest of Defence Minister AK Antony had ordered Court of Inquiry (CoI) in January 2010. The then Army Chief, General Deepak Kapoor, suggested ‘administrative action’. However, Antony put his foot down.

The CoI indicted Lt Gen Prakash for using his position to influence officers to transfer the land to the developer. It even suggested that Lt Gen Prakash should be sacked for he "became a facilitator in promoting Dilip Agarwal's business."

Being posted at the Army Headquarters New Delhi, Lt Gen Avadesh Prakash had no jurisdiction over Siliguri which is under the 33 Corps of the Eastern Command. The court of inquiry said that he took undue interest in the building project.

Lt Gen Rath had confessed to having taken the decision at Lt Gen Avadesh Prakash's behest.





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