Sukna land scam: Rath challenges revision order (Lead)

July 11th, 2011 - 5:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Shillong, July 11 (IANS) The general court martial (GCM), which convicted former 33 Corps Commander Lt. Gen. P.K. Rath in the Sukna land scam in West Bengal, reassembled here Monday to reconsider his acquittal on one charge, a move that has been challenged.

Rath’s counsel termed the revision order of the Eastern Command chief, Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh, as “illegal based on conjecture, suspicion and doubts”.

“The revision order is based on conjecture, suspicion and doubts which law does not permit to take into account to fix the criminal liability of a person,” Rath’s counsel S.S. Pandey said in his submission before the reassembled GCM at the 58 Gorkha Training Centre here.

The reassembled court martial, comprises five senior lieutenant generals and is headed by Lt. Gen. I.P. Singh.

In his June 17 revision order, Bikram Singh ordered the GCM to reassemble to reconsider its finding of Rath being found not guilty of the first charge of intent to defraud the army.

Rath had been charged with intent to defraud the army by issuing a no-objection certificate (NOC) to a private realtor to construct an educational institution on a 70-acre plot adjacent to the Sukna military station in Darjeeling district.

An eight-month-long court martial earlier found Rath guilty on three counts.

Pandey said that the revision order was based on doubts without any evidence to support them.

Defending the revision order, prosecution counsel Raghavendra Jha reiterated his stand in respect of the first charge on the basis of evidence on record and the detailed observation made by Bikram Singh.

“If the confirming authority (Bikram Singh) while examining the evidence forms an opinion that the findings on a particular charges are perverse, then it has the power to order the reconsideration of the findings,” Jha told the GCM.

In January, the GCM against Rath, the first serving lieutenant general to be found guilty, recommended taking “off the rank and the precedence of appointment” with substantive effect from May 24, 2010.

Rath is the seniormost serving general to be hauled up for indiscipline. The sentence is expected in a couple of days from now.

Another senior officer, Lt. Gen. Avadesh Prakash, who was the military secretary when General Deepak Kapoor was the army chief and has now retired, is also expected to soon face a court martial in the case. The order for Prakash’s court martial was issued by Kapoor before his retirement in March 2010.

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