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Friday, 11 October 2013

From Today's Papers - 11 Oct 2013


Ration scam: Lt Gen’s conviction upheld, sentence reduced

Vijay Mohan/TNS


Chandigarh, October 10

The Chandigarh Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal has upheld the findings and consequent conviction by general court martial (GCM) of the Army’s former Director General Supplies and Transport Lt Gen SK Sahni for alleged irregularities in the procurement of dry rations.


However, the Bench has reduced the quantum of the sentence from cashiering and three years rigorous imprisonment to dismissal from service.


The Tribunal’s Bench comprising Justice VK Ahuja and Lt Gen HS Panag ruled that the Bench did not find any reason to disagree with the findings of the GCM and the charges had been substantiated and adequately proved.


Observing that he had failed to perform his duty and could not escape responsibility in this respect, the Bench ruled that since he had remained in custody of military authorities for about 10 months during the course of the trial, the sentence of imprisonment and cashiering was too harsh and hence was modified to dismissal from service.


While Lt Gen Sahni, who was on bail, has been spared the ignominy of a prison term in a civilian jail, he may still not be entitled to service and pensionary benefits unless special government sanction for the same is accorded.


A GCM presided over by Lt Gen Jatinder Singh had, on February 18, 2011, held him guilty on six out of nine charges of professional impropriety levelled against him under provisions of the Army Act.


Though several Lt Generals have faced disciplinary proceedings and have been awarded varying sentences, this was for the first time that an officer of this rank was sentenced to imprisonment.


He faced charges under Sections 52 and 63 for intent to defraud and acts prejudicial to military discipline. These include reversing the tendering process of procurement of pulses, overlooking recommendations of sampling of stocks, omitting to ensure detailed investigations into lapses, failing to ensure checks against the presence of toxic substance in supplies and not freezing such stocks to prevent consumption by troops and failing to ensure timely completion of contracts.


The charges also included the failure to initiate recovery of the cost of 979 metric tonnes of sub-standard rations, of which about 220 tonnes was reportedly consumed by the troops.


The GCM had taken place in Jalandhar and Lt Gen Sahni had been recalled from retirement for the purpose and placed under close arrest in military custody. Subsequent to the GCM’s sentence, he had moved the tribunal and had been granted bail on March 4, 2011.


General Sahni’s case had come to light in 2005 along with that of Lt Gen SK Dahiya, also an Army Service Corps officer of the same seniority. Gen Dahiya, who along with several other officers was held blameworthy for lapses in the procurement of frozen meat for troops, had faced administrative action.


A court of inquiry into both these cases was conducted by Headquarters, Western Command, Chandimandir.


2005: Lt Gen SK Sahni’s case for alleged irregularities in the procurement of dry rations comes to light

February 18, 2011: A GCM holds him guilty on six out of nine charges

March 4, 2011: He moves the Armed Forces Tribunal and is granted bail

October 2013: AFT upholds his conviction, reduces sentence

Confusing picture

Army needs to come clean


In recent weeks, the Indian Army in Jammu and Kashmir has been the subject of several attacks, by both the Pakistani Army and terrorists, at a cost of human life and loss of image to the Army and the country alike. This recent period has seen Army patrols being ambushed along the Line of Control (LoC), a terrorist strike inside an Army cantonment located in what has been perceived to be a relatively peaceful part of an otherwise strife-torn state and, more recently, an incursion by terrorists well inside the Indian side of the LoC in the Keran sector.


While the incidents certainly reflect badly on Pakistan which seems to be adopting double standards vis-a-vis India, the incidents have raised two major issues that require introspection. The first is the issue of competence. How is it that the Army became a victim of such humiliating attacks? And, whether the Army handled it competently?  The second is that the Army’s own statements have left the public confused, especially on the facts pertaining to the recent most incursion by terrorists in the Keran sector.  Its handling on this incident has been most baffling. The incident is shrouded in some confusion. For some days the Army continued to hype up the incident. The local formations displayed weapons and literature captured from the terrorists even as the Army Chief went on record to declare that the Pakistani Army was actively supporting the terrorists. The Army made it sound that it was a prolonged operation in the making. Yet, the very next day, the Army declared that the entire operation had ended. It had ended as suddenly as it had been hyped. Subsequent inquiries reveal that the Pakistani Army had not fired a single shot across the LoC in the Keran sector.


The Army needs to come clean on what actually happened and needs to introspect whether slackness and incompetency could be a reason on its recent susceptibility to terror attacks. For, these incidents do not reflect positively on an Army that has served the country well and is regarded highly by its countrymen.

Army to explain alleged lapses in recent Kashmir encounters

The Indian Army may have called off a two-week operation to hunt down infiltrators at the Keran sector in Kashmir and the dead bodies of those it claims were never recovered, the government wants an explanation for alleged lapses.


"Some lapses were there. We had information about possible infiltration attempts in the entire belt (Indo-Pak border along Jammu sector)," said Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde though he stressed that the intelligence alerts did not offer information specific to Keran.


The encounter in Keran, the largest in years, consisted of a series of gunbattles in which soldiers fought about 30 heavily-armed Pakistanis who crossed over the Line of Control for 14 days. India has accused the Pakistani army of links to the group. Five Indian soldiers were injured.


Before that, the Army said at least 12 infiltrators were killed in the village of Shala Batu, but no dead bodies have been recovered. Top government officials said that  the army  was perhaps "misled into believing" that it had been able to kill over 12 terrorist in the first few days of the operation.


The government has also asked for more information on how three terrorists stormed first into a police station and then an Army camp on September 26, killing 10 people including a Lieutenant Colonel in Samba near Jammu. The terrorists were shot dead.


Sources tell NDTV that initial inquires reveal that the three terrorists entered the camp without being put through any checks because they were wearing army fatigues.


A Quick Reaction Team of the Army, consisting of commandos, was dispatched to the police station though the terrorists had already moved towards the army camp.


"There was absolutely no information about the fact that Fidayeen's had left the police station. The Jammu and Kashmir police didn't raise an alarm; nor did the Army, which has many soldiers deployed in the area, warned that the terrorists had moved to another target," a senior official told NDTV

Defence Ministry discusses infiltration issue with Army Headquarters

Amid questions over the Keran incident, the Defence Ministry today said it has discussed with the Army Headquarters the details of the infiltration of such a large group of terrorists who kept the force engaged for 15 days there.


A high-level meeting between the Defence Ministry and the Army Headquarters was held in which details of the conduct of the operations were discussed, Defence Ministry sources said here. The representatives of the Directorate General of Military Operations, which looks after such large-scale operations, were present during the meeting, the sources said.


Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh had also briefed Defence Minister AK Antony on the issue yesterday in an hour-long meeting with him at the Army Research and Referral Hospital here. Antony has been getting regular updates from the Ministry on the incident where 35-40 terrorists infiltrated on September 24 in Keran sector but only eight could be killed in the operation that got over on October 8. Questions have been raised over the operations by the local formation and the senior commanders there as several loopholes have been being cited in their conduct.


The Army is also likely to order an inquiry into the operations to find out if there was any mistake committed by the troops and commanders there. The four-day Army Commanders' Conference starting October 21 is also expected to discuss various aspects of the entire operation.


The Army is also expected to discuss the need for evolving strategies to tackle such infiltration attempts from across the Line of Control and the International Border.


The level of infiltration is expected to go up in the near future with the proposed withdrawal of American and NATO troops from Afghanistan. The meeting is also expected to discuss growing activities of Pakistan Army special forces in the border areas and their increasing attempts to infiltrate and attack Indian Army patrols.


Ministry of Defence warns of action against imitation of Indian Army's clothing

Virendrasingh Ghunawat  Mumbai, October 10, 2013 | UPDATED 14:29 IST

For those clothing manufacturers or traders who are using designs and look alive clothing of Indian Army - there is a stringent warning from the Ministry of Defence.


The Ordanance Clothing Factory (ODF), Avadi in Chennai has warned of action against imitation of Indian Army's clothing, saying it has the exclusive rights for its usage.


In an advertisement-cum-copyright caution notice published on Thursday in leading newspaper, ODF under Ministry of Defence, Government of India has said the designs of cloth "have come to be vested and identified with us to the exclusion, of all others in respect of textile fabric for exclusive use against requirements of Indian Army. We, therefore, have exclusive right to use the aforesaid designs in respect of textile fabrics."



The advertisement is strict warning for those cloth merchants who are using Indian Army original designs for its vested business interest.


The advertisement says, "Notice is hereby given to all concerned that unauthorised use of the design or a deceptive/confusingly similar design or imitation by any person, firm or company in respect of their goods or services would amount to infringement of our copyright in the aforesaid designs and liable for legal proceedings under Designs Act, 2000".


The advertisement, which has photograph of the patterns (both jungle and desert patterns) used in Army clothing.


The factory has warned of civil and criminal action against persons imitating its designs. "We, hereby caution that we shall take civil and criminal action against unscrupulous persons, firms, companies etc, who may be found to imitate our aforesaid designs."


The advertisement has requested textile manufacturers, traders and public to cooperate by bringing to ODF notice of any misuse or attempt to use imitative designs resembling the designs depicted herewith.


Fact remains, the clothing used by the Army, that inspires respect in the minds of common people, has been found to be imitated by private security agencies that have mushroomed all over. Besides, some individuals are also seen sporting army-type cloth by way of fashion statement.


Interestingly, in November 2009, ODF had published similar advertisement cum caution notice in newspapers. It seems hardcore cloth merchants and imitators have no fear of Indian Army on the ground.

Concerned over Army 'setbacks', govt wants lapses investigated

Alarmed by the successive high-impact attacks on the Army in Jammu and Kashmir, the government, it is learnt, has strongly conveyed its concerns to the Army top brass over security lapses leading to these incidents and asked for a detailed investigation into this aspect in ongoing inquiries.


Top sources said that initial reports on the August 5 Poonch attack in which five Indian soldiers were killed, and last month's incident in Samba in which militants entered the officer's mess of an armoured regiment and killed the second-in-command, have indicated lapses and this has got the highest levels of government quite upset.


In fact, there is discomfiture even over the just concluded operations in the Keran sector. The fact that a large group of militants, be it infiltrators or terrorists waiting to attack an Army patrol, had gained access to the Indian side of the Line of Control has by itself generated considerable concern.


The tall claims to the media in the initial days of the gun battle, sources said, have also not gone down well.


While the defence ministry will take a closer look at the Keran episode now that the Army has finally called off operations, the Samba incident remains a major issue with the government as it came just a couple of days before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was to meet his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in New York.


Even though the Army has ordered a court of inquiry, the defence ministry has specifically asked the military top brass to account for the lapses and take action against those responsible.


On top of the list of lapses was the ease with which militants could enter the unit, the lack of a quick response which meant the militants could get into the officer's mess unhindered and the larger absence of coordination with the local police that could have alerted all military formations about the attack on the Hira Nagar police station by the same militants more than an hour before they reached the 16 Cavalry location.


Such was the chaos that a quick reaction team from the nearby Sikh regiment had to be deployed to end the encounter that almost threatened to derail the diplomatic initiative in New York. What has got senior government officials even more upset is the fact that there had been a detailed strategic appreciation of increased terrorist and militant activity in these months.


This was conveyed through various communications and security forces had specifically been asked to step up vigil to prevent military escalation.


For this reason, the killing of five Indian soldiers in Poonch prompted questions of whether the casualties could have been avoided. As it turned out, lapses have emerged in the initial report, with the patrol probably resting at the time of the attack as not a single shot was fired by the Indian troops during the raid.


The three incidents together, sources said, have raised serious doubts within the government on the overall military preparedness in J&K as such attempts are only expected to increase. At the moment, however, the Army has been asked to review and step up its efforts.


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