The Armed Forces Tribunal has given a go-ahead for court martial against a former Major General who was allegedly caught on-camera taking bribe in the 2001 Tehelka sting operation and pulled up the army for delaying the matter for so long.
Rejecting Maj Gen (retd) P S K Choudary's plea against the courtmartial ordered against him by Western Commander in July 2004, principal bench of the tribunal said it did not see "any merit" in his petition.
At the same time, it had some critical observations against the army for delaying the matter for so long.
"It is not necessary that the authorities should wait till the end of the period of limitation for initiating the action. Such action of delay unnecessarily causes the suspicion and creates legal complications," the Principal Bench of the Tribunal said in its verdict.
The tribunal said that in such matters, action should be taken "promptly and without unnecessary delay".
In the Tehelka sting operation, code-named 'Operation Westend', Choudary was shown in a TV programme on March 13, 2001, purportedly taking bribe from journalists posing as arms dealers.
He was suspended the next day and a Court of Inquiry was ordered against him. Subsquently, court martial against him was convened on May 26, 2004.
In his plea to the Tribunal, Choudary had contended that the Army could not initiate the court martial proceedings against him as the three-year 'limitation period' in the case was over as he was suspended in March 2001 and the court martial was convened only on May 26, 2004.
According to army Rules, no offence shall be tried after expiry of period of three years which shall be counted from the first day of the commencment of initial action against a personnel and the final action in his or her case.
Rejecting Choudary's contention, the Tribunal said, "in the present case, it is not right that the period of commencement of the limitation should be from 14th-15th March, when petitioner was placed under suspension.
"That suspension order was only a prima facie action on the basis of the media information which was yet to be acquired an actionable information by competent authority to act upon that," it said.
The tribunal agreed with army's argument that commencement of limitation period should start from June 14, 2001 when the direction for recording Summary of Evidence was issued on the basis of the Court of Inquiry instituted by army to verify the facts of the sting operation.
It added that the army could not have taken action merely on the basis of the sting operation.