In a major blow to its image, three senior army officers have been found guilty of faking killings of Pakistani soldiers on the Siachen Glacier, apparently, to claim gallantry awards.
A Court of Inquiry has held Major Surinder Singh, Company Commander of a Gorkha Battalion, of having 'faked killings of some enemy personnel and destruction of some enemy bunkers' and ordered disciplinary action against him.
The Court also held Commanding Officer of the Battalion Col K D Singh and his adjutant Major Rohit Lama guilty of 'administrative lapses' and ordered 'administrative action' against them.
Maj Singh had been 'cautioned' by his Commanding Officer after certain claims of his were found to be 'exaggerated' and in turn, the former levelled certain charges against his superior. "This led to a series of events culminating in the setting up of a Court of Inquiry by the Formation Headquarters," the army spokesman said.
He said the Commanding Officer and Major Lama were held 'guilty of committing acts of omission and commission of administrative nature and not operationally-related nor to Major Singh's events'.
He sought to downplay charges that the incidents had dented the Army's image, labelling them as 'individual events' and promising stringent action against the guilty.
While expressing ignorance about how many more people could be involved in the faking of incidents, the army spokesman said while disciplinary proceedings had been initiated against Maj Singh, administrative action had been ordered against the two others.
As the army sought to proceed legally against him, Maj Singh reported sick on March 26 and was moved to Northern Area Headquarters at Chandigarh, he said.
Maj Singh was subsequently attached to 6 Kumaon located in Jammu and Kashmir on April 19 but the officer obtained a stay order from the Punjab and Haryana high court.
To a question whether 14 Corps Commander Lt Gen Arvind Sharma had made a presentation at the prestigious Defence Services Staff College at Wellington on the basis of footage of these fake encounters, the spokesman said the Corps
Commander might not have known at that stage that the footage was stage-managed.
Meanwhile, in an effort to maintain the dignity of gallantry awards, the Defence Ministry asserted that army operations were 'professionally conducted and systematically monitored at various levels of command'. All claims (of encounters and skirmishes) are always verified by personnel of other agencies posted at these places."The system of awards and citations is absolutely foolproof and above board. There is no question of anyone receiving awards or citations on false claims and in this instant case also as soon as the complaint was received, appropriate action was immediately initiated," it said.