Sukna land scam: Rath gets clean chit on one charge


Shillong : An army court Friday stuck to its earlier finding and pronounced that former 33 Corps commander Lt. Gen. P.K. Rath was not guilty of the charge of intent to defraud the army in the Sukna land scam in West Bengal.

Support TwoCircles

Rath broke down as the reassembled general court martial (GCM), comprising five senior lieutenant generals, upheld its earlier finding that he was not guilty of the charge.

“The court attentively considered the observation of confirming authority, and after having perused the evidence on records and the whole proceedings of court martial… (its members) do now respectfully adhere to the first charge,” Lt. Gen. I.J. Singh, the presiding officer of court martial, announced in the judgment here.

The confirming authority in the case is the Eastern Army Commander, Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh, before whom the verdict of the GCM will be placed. He June 17 asked the GCM to review its finding that Rath was not guilty of the charge of intent to defraud the army. Rath was, however, held guilty on two other charges.

“The court has not agreed with the observations made in the revision order and they (general court martial) have found no factual or legal error in the finding of not guilty given earlier in respect of the first charge (intent to defraud) and, therefore, adhered to the earlier findings,” Rath’s counsel S.S. Pandey told IANS.

Rath, the first serving three-star officer to be convicted of wrongdoing, was charged with intent to defraud the army by issuing a no-objection certificate to a private realtor to construct an educational institution on a 70-acre plot adjacent to the Sukna military station in Darjeeling district. He has now been given a clean chit on this count.

The two other charges on which he was found guilty were signing of a memorandum of understanding with Geetanjali Trust for construction of the educational institution and not informing his superiors in the Eastern Command about the proposed agreement.

In January, the GCM against Rath recommended taking “off the rank and the precedence of appointment” with substantive effect from May 24, 2010.

Soon after, Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh in his revision order said: “I am of the view that finding of not guilty with reference to the first charge – intent to defraud – appears to be perverse and against the weight of evidence on record and need to be reconsidered by the court.”

Rath challenged the revision order on the ground that his appeal against the GCM’s verdict was pending before the Indian Army chief General V.K. Singh.

Opposing Rath’s plea and terming the verdict against the weightage of evidence on records, prosecution counsel Raghavendra Jha earlier said: “The verdict is against the weightage of evidence on record as well as the observation of the confirming authority.”

“We don’t agree with the judgment which is contrary to the evidence on records whereby the prosecution has proved intent to defraud the army beyond reasonable doubts,” Jha said.

Before pronouncing the verdict Friday, Judge-Advocate Brigadier Rajendra Kumar said the court martial upheld the prosecution submission that the revision order of the eastern army commander was valid.

Another senior officer, Lt. Gen. Avadesh Prakash, who was the military secretary at the Army Headquarters when General Deepak Kapoor was the army chief and has now retired, is also facing a court martial in the case in Guwahati, Assam.