Chandigarh, February 22
The Indian Air Force has convened a trial by General Court Martial (GCM) of two senior officers for alleged lapses leading to an Mi-17 helicopter being shot down in friendly fire near Srinagar in February 2019 in the aftermath of the air strike on terror camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
- Mi-17 helicopter was shot down in friendly fire near Srinagar in February 2019
- Six Air Force personnel, including two pilots, and a civilian were killed
- Those facing GCM are Group Captain SR Chowdhury, Wing Commander Shyam Naithani
The incident had resulted in the death of six Air Force personnel, including two pilots, and a civilian, besides the aircraft being totally destroyed. The GCM of Group Captain SR Chowdhury, then posted as the Chief Operations Officer, and Wing Commander Shyam Naithani, the then Senior Air Traffic Controller at Srinagar Air Force Station, is scheduled to begin at the Chandigarh Air Force Station on Wednesday, sources said. Air Vice Marshal S Srinivas has been detailed as the GCM’s presiding officer.
The officers are facing various charges under provisions of the Air Force Act, 1950, which include Section 41 for non-compliance of lawful orders and Section 62 for offences in relation to loss of life or bodily injury or damage to aircraft. The charges have also been levied against them under Section 65 of the Act for violation of good order and Air Force discipline.
Sources said the instructions issued by higher headquarters on the use of Identification of Friend or Foe (IFF) system in IAF aircraft and their implementation by the local authorities was expected to play an important role. A court of inquiry (CoI) ordered to investigate the fratricide incident had held the two officers, along with several others, blameworthy for alleged lapses on their part and subsequently disciplinary action was recommended against them. The cases of others, including two Air Commodores, were disposed of by way of administrative action.
They had challenged the proceedings against them before the Armed Forces Tribunal, averring that the terms of reference of the CoI were in violation of Air Force orders on the subject as a technical expert was not present and the proceedings of the Court of Inquiry, its opinion and findings were contrary to the mandatory provisions of the Air Force Rules.
The Tribunal had upheld the CoI in its order of May 2021, observing that it had been correctly convened and conducted and the terms of reference were valid, but advised the authorities to ensure that all statutory measures to uphold principles of natural justice were scrupulously followed.
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