UNION OF INDIA Vs. R. KARTHIK
LAWS(SC)-2020-1-48
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
Decided on January 21,2020

UNION OF INDIA Appellant
VERSUS
R. Karthik Respondents

JUDGEMENT

HEMANT GUPTA,J. - (1.)The orders passed by the Armed Forces Tribunal, Regional Bench, Chennai are subject matter of challenge by the Union of India. Vide the said orders, the verdict dated 24 th July, 2013 of Summary Trial dismissing the respondent1 from service was partly modified by setting aside the order of dismissal but substituting it with punishment of 75 days detention and maintaining second part of sentence i.e. deprivation of First Good Conduct Badge.
(2.)The Sailor entered in Naval service on 31 st July, 2008 when he was about 19 years of age having born on 1 st November, 1989. He was on board INS Gharial which started sailing on 29 th May, 2013. He was Writer and assigned duties in the Pay Office for preparation of pay bills and payment of salaries and maintenance of records. An unfortunate incident happened on 29 th May, 2013 at about 10:00 hours when Lt. Abhishek Vardhan made a complaint requesting strict possible action against the Sailor. The complaint dated 29 th May, 2013 reads as under:
"The ship left harbour on 29 May 13 at about 0830 hrs. We were to receive Seaking C-560 onboard at 1000 hrs an so flying stations was piped and Aviation Core Team was mustered on helo deck. Being the Aviation Officer of the ship, I went to helo deck to prepare the deck for flying. When I mustered the Aviations Core Team, Karthik, WTR I was missing. I called up bridge and requested SSD OOW to announce for him. After about 15-20 minutes and 2 more announcements Karthik, Writer, I, finally came to helo deck. When I asked him about the delay, he said that he had closed for SSD. When I told him that Aviation Core Team was mustered and he should have come, he said that his name is not in Aviations Core Team and that he is standby for Prasad, Cook II. I asked him if he was aware that Prasad was on leave. He said he was aware of it. I asked him again that as he was standby for Prasad and he knew he was on leave, he should have closed up. To this he replied that Chief Writer has told him that as there are only 2 writers onboard, they will not do any duty. I told him to get Chief Writer to helo deck. He then replied that Chief Writer is not onboard and is admitted in hospital. Then I told him to remain on helo deck and once Aviations Core Team is secured, write a statement saying "he came late to helo hanger because Chief Writer had told him not to do any duty". He then became more aggressive and shouted upon me that "I will not write any statement, Chief Writer is hospitalized." I told him again that it does not make any difference whether Chief Writer is onboard or not, he must write a statement at end of Flying Stations. He now shouted on the top of his voice saying "Chief Sahab is admitted". I then lost my cool and shouted back at him abusing him. He then hit me with his fist on my left cheek and abused me. I did not shout at him further or even touch him, I called a Regulating Sailor who was in Helo Hanger and told him to take Karthik, Writer to Executive Officer in bridge. I told the whole episode to the Executive Officer and EXO took us to Commanding Officer and I apprised him of the situation. After this I was asked to go to helo deck by EXO and ensure safe recovery of SC-560. I composed myself and went to the helo deck for recovering SC-560. After this when at 1400 hrs. Aviation Core Team was asked to muster in helo deck again, Karthik, Writer I did not come to helo deck once against. I asked POA (AH) Gupta to announce for him and went to oversee the ground run of SC-560. Post ground run, I was told by POA(AH) Gupta that Karthik, Writer did not come for Aviation Core Team again. I do not think that such an offence should be accepted by anyone and the most strict possible action be taken against the sailor. It was with this faith in Indian Navy that I did not hit the sailor back and I hope that my faith in the system remains so."

(3.)On the basis of such complaint, the investigations were conducted by Lt. Cdr. Ishwar Chandra, Investigating Officer. The accused was brought before the Investigating Officer on 29 th May, 2013 at 16:00 hrs. Ganesh Kumar Tiwari, Tara Chand Nehra and Vikash Sharma were examined as witnesses. The Investigating Officer referred the case to Executive Officer. The Executive Officer on 1st conducted the proceedings June, 2013 wherein the abovenamed three witnesses were again examined. Lt. Vivek Rajput was provided to the Sailor as a Defending Officer. They were not cross-examined by the Defending Officer. Jenish George, Lt. Cdr., acting as Executive Officer, referred the case to the Commanding Officer on 1st June, 2013. It may be stated that the three witnesses examined either before the Investigating Officer or before the Executive Officer have denied the incident as alleged. Lt. Abhishek Vardhan was neither cited as a witness nor was examined either by the Investigating Officer or by the Executive Officer.
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