Senior Indian Navy officer sacked for sexual misconduct

By N.C. Bipindra,IANS,

New Delhi : A senior Indian Navy officer found guilty of sexual misconduct while posted in Russia to supervise the refit of the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, has been sacked and discharged from service without pension, an official said Thursday.

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Commodore Sukhjinder Singh’s discharge orders were issued by the defence ministry this week after his fate was sealed in a probe that found his having an intimate relationship with a local woman in Russia was unbecoming of a navy officer. The officer was posted for three years from 2005.

“The orders discharging Commodore Sukhjinder Singh from service without pension benefits, which is the highest punishment for misconduct, has been issued. He now stands discharged,” a senior defence ministry official told IANS.

The officer was removed from service under Section 216 of the Navy Regulations and it was a government decision, the official said.

The sacking orders come over a month after Defence Minister A.K. Antony announced that his discharge from the service was imminent.

Antony had said then that Singh “will be discharged” and that he “will not be in service now”

Singh, a one-star navy officer, was India’s pointsman in Russia to ensure the smooth, on-time refit and repair of Admiral Gorshkov.

The controversy over his relations with the Russian woman erupted in early 2010 following the leaking of explicit photographs in which the two were shown involved intimately.

The photographs formed a major part of evidence to indict him in the navy’s court of inquiry into the misconduct.

Moreover, the row came at a time when India and Russia were finalising the increase in the cost of the aircraft carrier’s repair. India finally agreed to pay $2.34-billion for the second-hand aircraft carrier in February 2010.

The aircraft carrier was originally bought by India in early 2004 for $974 million and rechristened INS Vikramaditya. The deal also included 16 MiG-29K fighter jets, for another $526 million, to operate on board the warship.

While Russia has delivered the fighter jets to India, the warship itself is expected to be inducted only by late 2012 or early 2013. The navy is expected to place an order for 29 more MiG-29Ks.

The aircraft carrier contract involved its repair and refit at the Russian Sevmash shipyard.

In 2007, the shipyard first demanded a hike in payments for the refit programme and had at one stage cited $2.9-billion as cost of the works, which included additional retrofitting, additional wiring, weapons, and communication systems that India had sought.

Singh was posted as the Indian warship production superintendent overseeing Gorshkov’s refit in Russia.

After his return to India, he continued to be linked with the warship’s refit programme as the principal director (aircraft carrier project) based in New Delhi, where he served till mid-2009.

He was later posted to the defence ministry’s directorate general of quality assurance, but was relieved of his responsibilities in April last year after the navy ordered the probe against him in connection with his liaison with the Russian woman.

The Admiral Gorshkov deal itself was slammed by the Comptroller and Auditor General in a report a year ago, for buying a used warship at a huge cost, while a swanky new one could be purchased for a price slightly over what India was now paying.