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Lt. Gen. (retd) Avadesh Prakash, the former military secretary at army headquarters who has won a temporary reprieve against a court martial ordered against him, alleges that the Indian Army chief violated a long-standing military practice in recommending the action.

The army chief, Gen. Deepak Kapoor, had violated a rule in place since 1993 that clearly prohibits anyone in the army from changing an order of taking administrative action against an officer to disciplinary action, Prakash said in a TV interview.

The Armed Forces Tribunal on Monday ruled that there had been a “mockery of justice” by an army court of inquiry into the Sukna land scam in which Prakash was allegedly involved and gave the former military secretary two months to cross-examine the witnesses in the case.

The court of inquiry had indicted Prakash in December 2009 for using his position of authority to pressure the 33 Corps based in Sukna in West Bengal, including its chief Lt. Gen. P.K. Rath, to facilitate the transfer of the land in question to his family friend.

The Eastern Army Commander, Lt. Gen. V.K. Singh, who had ordered the court of inquiry, had recommended Prakash’s court martial. The army chief initially reduced this to administrative action but then reversed it to disciplinary action, apparently under pressure from the defence ministry.

In support of his contention, Prakash quoted from a letter from the Adjutant General’s branch at army headquarters that says: “Once the competent authority after having applied his mind to full facts of the case decides to initiate administrative action & such action has commenced, at this stage to revert to disciplinary action is not only unjustified but also legally unsustainable.”

Prakash also said that Kapoor did not fully apply his mind to his reply to the show cause notice he had received after the court of inquiry’s findings.

“As per my knowledge, the court of inquiry was received from HQ Eastern Command around 22nd or 23rd of December and the show cause notice was given to me on the 11th of January,” Prakash said.

“It means about three weeks of time was taken. I gave my reply on the 22nd of January. Then on 29th I was given a letter which says that administrative action is cancelled and disciplinary action is to be constituted against me.

“Now just see the contrast. You have taken three days to change the decision from administrative action to disciplinary action, whereas almost three weeks (were taken) for the court of inquiry to be examined,” Prakash pointed out.

He also said that the opportunity now given to him to cross-examine the witnesses in the case “will put things in the correct perspective, because all these officers or the witnesses, who came, came in isolation and in my absence, so some more issues will come to light and put things in correct perspective.”

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