Tuesday, October 20, 2009

GCM’s presiding officer himself under lens

While a general court martial (GCM) assembled to try an Army captain for illegally possessing an imported weapon and trying to sell it off in the civilian market has accepted the defence plea that it does not have jurisdiction to try the case, it also kicked up a controversy, with its court’s presiding officer facing a separate court of inquiry (COI) for irregularities in procurements.
The court, held at Meerut, accepted the defence plea on October 14, over six months after it was assembled. Under provisions of Army Rule 51, the court’s decision is to be reported to the convening authority, but it does not require any conformation from higher authorities.
The General Officer Commanding, 9 Infantry Division, Major-Gen Ranbir Singh, ordered the COI a few weeks ago while the GCM was in progress at Meerut. The COI has been completed and submitted for further action, it is learnt. The COI’s terms of reference are to investigate certain complaints received against the presiding officer, a colonel commanding an ordnance unit said.
The captain faced two charges under the Arms Act for possessing the weapon without a licence. He had allegedly tried to sell the weapon to a civilian while he was admitted to an Army Hospital in New Delhi. Another officer is also said to be involved in the case. The alleged transaction was revealed when they were caught in a raid conducted by the military intelligence.
Defence counsel Lt Col PN Chaturvedi (Retd) said they had raised the plea of non-jurisdiction because certain legal safeguards mandated under the Arms Act had not been complied with during the proceedings.
They had relied on a judgement by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in a similar case, which was subsequently upheld by the apex court.

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