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Court Martial proceedings a public activity,CIC to Defence Min

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Published: Friday, January 11, 2008

Court Martial proceedings a public activity,CIC to Defence Min

Source: Agencies


Court Martial proceedings a public activity,CIC to Defence Min


New Delhi, Jan 11 Observing that defence court of inquiry could not be construed as a private activity, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has asked the Defence Ministry to consider revealing details of court martial proceedings against an army officer.


In a recent order, the Commission has turned down the Ministry's plea to seek exemption from revealing to one Lt Col Harish Gulati information about inquiry proceedings initiated against him on the grounds that divulging such details would serve no public interest.


"It is clear that the applicant is seeking an information concerning a disciplinary case against him and as such it is not an information about some other person so as to attract exemption clauses under RTI Act. The details sought is about a court of inquiry, which is public and not a private activity," Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said.


In his Right to Information plea, Gulati had said that despite the court martial proceedings declaring him not guilty, his service was still under a threat.


Claiming that he was not provided a hearing and witnesses were threatened during the inquiry proceedings, he said he needed the information to establish that there were no grounds to further proceed against him.


The Ministry, however, took a plea that judgement of the court martial proceedings against Gulati was perverse and the case was still under process. Exclusion was also sought on the grounds that information sought by Gulati was held by it in a fiduciary capacity.


The Ministry has been directed to re-examine the matter afresh and take a decision on providing the details to Gulati within 15 days. (Agencies)

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I think that the issue is misinterpretted. Neither CIC nor RTI Act changed the cituation or status of a courtmartial proceedings.


Normally there is absolutely no secrecy in disclosing information affecting the delinquent during a Court Martial. An accussed is given all opportunities for being heard before and during the court martial. Before a court martial there is someting called "Recording of Summary of Evidence" where the accussed is given full opportunity in the presence of independent witnessess to say whatever he wanted to say cautioning that 'he is not required make a statement but whatever he says will be recorded and maybe used as evdience' .


Under any cirumstances there is no question of LtCol Gulati not getting an opportunity for being heard'. Lt Col Gulati might have been trying to get certain information which according to the army authorities might not have any direct bearing with the offences charged for court-martial. It is quite likely that the officer might be trying to get some information though may not be connected with him, might compel the authorities not to proceed against him.


Kindly note that in Defence Forces no one is punished without giving the accussed all opportunities for being heard in the presence of witnessess. In Defence Forces, unlike Civil, the merrit of the case is not decided only based on the competence of the Advocates nor the verdict of a Court Martial is given by legal experts. The Court martial is conducted by Service Officers, the case is decided based on facts.The Legal Expert only guide them He does not have any power to make decision.


I think the CIC's decision convey the wrong signal conveying that in defence forces, an innocent is punished on the veil of secrecy which is absolutely wrong.

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Army’s top legal official faces probe


Reported by DNA Correspondent, New Delhi on 04/02/08


The Army headquarters has ordered a court of inquiry against Major General Nilendra Kumar, the Judge Advocate General who oversees all the courts of inquiry and court-martials in the military.


According to Army sources, over a dozen charges have been levelled against Maj Gen Kumar. These range from forging documents to misuse of official premises.


The Court of Inquiry, to be headed by the Chief of Staff of the Central Command, will be conducted at the headquarters of the Punjab-based Western Army Command. It was ordered last week after a one-man inquiry headed by a Lieutenant General found the allegations true prima facie.


Some of the specific charges that would be investigated by the court of inquiry are: Did the JAG fabricate documents to scuttle a junior officer’s foreign trip; did he bypass hierarchy to directly write to the Prime Minister’s Office; did he misuse official residence to run private business; did he fabricate evidence and documents to get membership of the Supreme Court Bar Council and other professional bodies.

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