NATIONAL DEFENCE & MORALE: Tribunal shoots down army Kargil appeal –individuals that restore the honour and morale of our Army ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
New Delhi, Sept. 7: The brigadier has beaten his army for the second time.
The Armed Forces Tribunal today rejected an appeal by the Indian Army to review its order to rewrite the Kargil war history in the case of Brigadier Devinder Singh. The army will now have to set the record straight if it forgoes the option of approaching the Supreme Court.
Brigadier Singh commanded the 70 Infantry Brigade in the Batalik sector during the 1999 Kargil war. But his superiors, especially Lt Gen. Kishan Pal who was the 15 Corps commander — did not give him due credit in the After Action and Battle Performance Reports.
After 10 years of legal battle, Brigadier Singh, since retired, won an order in May this year in which the tribunal asked for the official account to be rewritten to acknowledge his role. But the army went for a cover-up, even conjuring up a fictitious brigade headquarters that was not shown to be under Singh’s command.
Singh was not asking for monetary or pecuniary benefits. He just wants his honour restored — even though he believed a gallantry medal and a promotion to the rank of major general were due to him.
The army sought a review of the tribunal’s order that questions the quality of generalship in the war and the distortion of the records in the official history called “Op Vijay: Account of the War in Kargil”.
Singh declined to comment on today’s order, wanting to wait for the official papers to be processed. An army source said: “The order has just been passed today. We have to study it to examine if further action can or needs to be taken.”
The army can appeal through a special leave petition to the Supreme Court against the order.
As if the unprecedented judgment in May was not enough, the tribunal was today categorical in its rejection of the army’s review petition. Its chairperson, Justice A.K. Mathur, said the army should be “thankful” that the tribunal had not asked for action to be taken that could be “worse” for Lt Gen. Pal. The entire Kargil War was in Lt Gen. Pal’s area of responsibility. He was at the time the general officer commanding the 15 Corps.
With the rejection of the review petition, the army will now have to expunge sections from Singh’s Annual Confidential Report and rewrite the official accounts in a manner that ensures him the credit that is his due.
Batalik was one of the toughest sectors in the war. Brigadier Singh led from the front, sustaining injuries himself, to evict Pakistan-backed intruders who had crossed the Line of Control and occupied crucial heights in Indian territory.
Brigadier Singh had also forecast a pattern of enemy intrusions during a war game in Srinagar before the war actually broke out in right earnest in May-June 1999.
He went to Delhi High Court in 2006 after appealing within the army for the corrections to be made. He had complained that his superior officers, notably Lt Gen. Pal, were biased in writing his reports.
After the tribunal was set up in 2008 the case was transferred to it. The tribunal found Brigadier Singh’s complaints justified. The brigadier now works for an aviation company.
The case of Brigadier Singh threatens to open a can of worms. There are at least three other officers who served in the Kargil war who have challenged the official account of the army on their roles and responsibilities.
Among the most sensitive of the cases is that of Brigadier (also retired) Surinder Singh, who was the commanding officer in charge of the 121 Kargil brigade. He was dismissed for having allegedly failed to patrol the LoC in his sector and not having detected the intrusions. Brigadier Surinder Singh has complained that he was made a scapegoat for the failure of his superior officers and he was in fact among the first to alert the higher command to the possibility of intrusions.
Eleven years after the war, the way it was fought, the lapses that allowed the intrusions into Indian territory and the role of its generals — the chief at that time was General V.P. Malik — are still hotly debated.
The war called Operation Vijay by the army and Operation Safed Sagar by the air force was treated as little more than sporadic fights at first.
Then defence minister George Fernandes predicted victory in 48 hours but the hostilities lasted 80 days and cost the lives of nearly 550 soldiers and young officers.