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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sukna land scam: Avdesh Prakash gets relief

New Delhi: A retired Indian Army lieutenant general, charged with corruption in a land scam in West Bengal's Sukna area, was Monday given two months to prove his innocence failing which he would have to face a court martial.

"The petitioner is given two months to cross examine the witnesses in the case, following which he may come back to us," a two-judge bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal ruled on the petition of Lt. Gen. Avdesh Prakash, who retired Jan 31 as the military secretary at army headquarters.

The order by the bench, comprising Justice (retd) A.K. Mathur and Lt. Gen. (retd) S.S. Dhillon came after Prakash contended that he was entitled to relief under section 180 of the Army Act as his reputation was at stake. He also said he had not been heard when the court of inquiry was convened and that he had not been permitted to cross-examine the witnesses in the case.

"Now, the army will be recalling all those witnesses to be examined in his presence. He will be permitted to cross examine them," Prakash's counsel Jyoti Singh told IANS.

However, sources familiar with the proceedings expressed surprise at Prakash's contention, saying he had attended the court of inquiry off and on but remained silent whenever he was asked if he wished to say anything or examine any of the witnesses.

A military inquiry is conducted in three stages, with the court of inquiry being the first and equivalent to the filing of a first information report.

Thereafter, the summary of evidence is recorded which is equivalent to framing of charges in a civil court.

The third stage is the court martial, which is equivalent to a trial in a civil court.

Prakash had contended that he had neither been heard at the first stage nor had he been given a chance to cross-examine the witnesses in the case.

Prakash moved to the tribunal after a court martial was ordered against him late last month. The order by Indian Army chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor came just two days ahead of Prakash's retirement on Jan 31. He is the seniormost lieutenant general to face such an action.

The disciplinary action followed Defence Minister A.K. Antony overturning Kapoor's earlier decision to initiate milder administrative action against Prakash.

A court of inquiry had indicted Prakash in December 2009 for using his position of authority to pressure the 33 Corps based in Sukna in West Bengal, including its chief Lt. Gen. P.K. Rath, to facilitate the transfer of the land in question to his family friend.

The Eastern command chief, Lt. Gen. V.K. Singh, who had ordered the court of inquiry, had ordered the court martial of the two officers. Singh will take over as the Indian Army chief in March when Kapoor retires.

Source: http://www.samaylive.com/news/sukna-land-scam-avdesh-prakash-gets-relief/675160.html

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