CHIEF OF ARMY STAFF Vs. MAJOR S P CHADHA
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA (FROM: PUNJAB & HARYANA)
CHIEF OF ARMY STAFF
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(1.)This is an appeal by special leave from the decision of a Division Bench of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana summarily dismissing Letters Patent Appeal No. 210 of 1990 filed by the appellants herein.
(2.)The respondent was an officer commissioned in the Indian Army. In 1983 the respondent held the rank of Lt. Colonel and was commanding the support Company for IInd Sikh Light Infantry. On June 12/13, 1983, the loss of one Stengun belonging to' Company and held in the charge of Sepoy Sital Singh, was reported to the Commanding Officer of 251 KHSI. An investigation was ordered by the Commanding Officer. It was reported at about 12.00 p.m., on June 14, 1983, that Sepoy Sital Singh had expired and Seopy Bir Singh had sustained several injuries in the course of an investigation by the respondent and some others. A suspicion arose that these injuries were caused on account of torture inflicted on these sepoys. An F.I.R. was filed with the Police Station, Charinda, District Amritsar at about 1.00 a.m., on June 14, 1983, to the effect that the death and injuries mentioned above had occurred as a result of scuffle between the said Sepoy Sital Singh and Sepoy Bir Singh. It seems to have been ascertained that the cause of injury stated in the F.I.R. was baseless. Investigation of the army authorities revealed that the death of Sepoy Sital Singh and injuries to Sepoy Bir Sineh had resulted on account of torture by electric shocks, and that the respondent and other army personnel concerned in the inquiry had been instrumental in inflicting the torture. Disciplinary proceedings were contemplated inter alia against the respondent and he was attached to H.Q. 15 Artillery Brigade, Consequent upon the attachment he was made to relinquish the acting rank of Lt. Colonel on the basis of Army Instruction No. 1/8/74 as amended by Army Instruction No. 2/76. The army authorities opted for a trial of the respondent by a Court-martial and hence, the respondent was put up for trial before a General Court-martial along with six other persons on March 6, 1985. Thereafter, the respondent filed a writ petition being Writ Petition No. 11823 of 1885 before this Court, challenging the action of the army authorities in putting him up for trial as aforestated. The respondent was also suspended pending proceedings contemplated against him. The General Court-martial which assembled on 15th March, 1985, for trial could not proceed in view of the fact that one of the members constituting the said Court had retired and a fresh Court-martial was not available to be constituted as a reference thereto was barred by limitation. The Court-martial was, therefore, dissolved under Section 117 of the Army Act, 1950, (referred to herinafter as "the Act") and the respondent was handed over to the civil authorities for being tried by a regular Criminal Court. In these circumstances, this Court dismissed the aforesaid writ petition filed by the respondent by an order dated May 17, 1987. There was some delay there-after apparently on account of the hesitation of the police authorities but ultimately, a complaint was filed on September 4, 1987, before a Chief Judicial Magistrate, Amritsar under Section 190 (1)(a') of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1908, against the respondent and others suspected to be involved in the torture which led to the death of Sepoy Sital Singh and severe injuries to Sepoy Bir Singh as aforestated.
(3.)At this stage the respondent filed a Civil Writ Petition No. 6885 of 1988 in the High Court of Punjab and Haryana under Article 226/227 of the Constitution, praying for the issue of a writ or order for restoring to him the rank of Lt. Colonel and for a declaration to the effect that the respondent continued to hold the rank of Lt. Colonel continuously and that bringing him down to the rank of Major was Illegal and unconstitutional. The respondent also prayed for a writ or order quashing the order of suspension made against him, on the ground of its being mala fide and illegal.
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