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the Armed Forces Tribunal, Regional Bench, Lucknow, by which it dismissed Original Application No.116 of 2011 filed by the 2 appellant and rejected his challenge to the direction for the General Court Martial to re-assemble for his trial contending that his trial was barred by time as provided under section 122 of the Army Act, 1950 (for the sake of brevity “the Act”).=One feels sorry to see a trial on such serious charges being aborted on grounds of limitation but that is the mandate of the law. It is seen above that GOC-in-C, CC had come to know about the offence and the offender being the appellant on May 7, 2007. It took one year from that date for him to pass the order for initiating disciplinary action against him on May 12, 2008. There were still two years in hand, which is no little time but that too was spent in having more than one rounds of hearing of the charges in terms of rule 22 with the result that by the time the order came to be passed to convene General Court Martial, more than three years had lapsed from the date of the knowledge of the competent authority. 25. Before concluding, we may also note that other officers who were allegedly involved in irregular purchases for the Central Ordnance Depot, Chheoki, also seem to have got away with very light, if at all, any punishment. Major General S.P. Sinha was subjected to an administrative action in which an order was passed on August 6, 2010 expressing severe 20 displeasure (non-recordable) against him. Lt. Col. Neeraj Gaur was finally acquitted by the General Court Martial. Lt. Col. Aloke Ghose was given severe displeasure (non-recordable) after the Commanding Officer found charges against him not proved. Major (now Lt. Col.) M.K. Bawa was similarly given severe displeasure (non-recordable) after the Commanding Officer found charges against him not proved. Against Lt. Col. Uma Shankar no further action was taken after charges against him were not proved in SoE. 26. In light of the discussions made above, the appeal must succeed. The judgment and order passed by the Tribunal is set aside and the direction by the GOC, MB Area, for reassembly of the General Court Martial is quashed. 27. The appeal is allowed. There will be no order as to costs.

REPORTABLE

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IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CIVIL APPEAL NO.  2107  OF 2012

(ARISING OUT OF SLP (CIVIL) NO.26892 OF 2011)

Rajvir Singh                                                         … Appellant

Versus

Secretary, Ministry of Defence & Others                              … Respondents

J U D G M E N T

Aftab Alam, J.

1.     Leave granted.

2.     This appeal is directed against the judgment and order dated August

19, 2011 passed by the Armed Forces Tribunal, Regional Bench, Lucknow,

by   which   it   dismissed   Original   Application   No.116   of   2011   filed   by   the

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appellant  and rejected  his challenge  to the direction  for  the  General  Court

Martial   to re-assemble   for his  trial  contending  that his  trial  was barred  by

time as provided under section 122 of the Army Act, 1950 (for the sake of

brevity “the Act”).

3.        A General Court Martial was directed to be convened by order dated

August   23/26,   2010  passed   by   the   General   Officer  Commanding,   Madhya

Bharat Area, (“GOC, MB Area” for short) to try the appellant on different

charges   relating   to   gross   financial   irregularities   punishable   under   Section

52(f) of the Act. The appellant challenged the order before the Armed Forces

Tribunal (in Original Application No. 216 of 2010) on the plea that his trial

by the General Court Martial was barred by limitation under section 122 of

the   Act.   At   that   stage,   the   Tribunal   did   not   go   into   the   merits   of   the

appellant’s  challenge and dismissed the Original Application leaving it open

for   the   appellant   to   raise   his   objections   before   the   Court   Martial.   In

pursuance   of   the   liberty   given   by   the   Tribunal,   the   appellant   raised   the

objection   before   the   Court   Martial   that   his   trial   before   it   was   barred   by

limitation. The Court Martial upheld the appellant’s objection and by order

dated  February  17, 2011,  allowed  the “plea  in  bar”  raised  by  the  defence.

However, the Confirming Authority, i.e., the (Officiating) GOC, MB Area,

refused to confirm the order of the General Court Martial and by order dated

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March 29, 2011, which is in some detail, found and held that reckoning from

the   date   on   which   the   commission   of   the   offence   and   the   identity   of   the

appellant   as   one   of   the   offenders   came   within   the   knowledge   of   the

competent   authority,   the   order   giving   direction   for   convening   the   General

Court Martial was passed within a period of three years and, therefore, the

bar of limitation did not come in the way of the trial of the appellant before

the General Court Martial. Having, thus, arrived at the finding, he directed

the GCM to proceed with the trial of the appellant as if the “plea in bar” was

found   not   proved.   The   appellant   challenged   the   order   of   the   Confirming

Authority once again before the Tribunal in Original Application no. 116 of

2011. But the Tribunal, mainly relying upon the decisions of this Court in

Union of India and others v. V.N. Singh (2010) 5 SCC 579 and J.S. Sekhon

v.  Union   of   India   and   another  (2010)   11   SCC   586,   held   that   the   General

Court Martial was convened within the period of limitation. It, accordingly,

rejected   the   application   and   upheld   the   order   passed   by   the   Confirming

Authority.

4.      The   charges   against   the   appellant   pertain   to   the   periods   2005-2006

and   2006-2007   when   he   was   posted   as   officiating   Commandant,   Central

Ordnance   Depot,   Chheoki.   According   to   the   charges,   in   procurement   of

stores   he   violated   and   flouted   the   relevant   rules   and   in   making   purchases

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worth about Rs.2.2 crores he caused wrongful loss of Rs.60.18 lakhs to the

Government.

5.      In this regard, first a pseudonymous complaint dated October 27, 2006

came making allegations of gross irregularities committed by the appellant

in   purchase   of  stores   for   the   Central   Ordnance   Depot.   The   complaint   was

seen   by   the   General   Officer   Commanding-in-Chief,   Central   Command

(“GOC-in-C,   CC”   in   short)   on   November   15,   2006.   The   complaint   was

followed   by   a   report   by   the   Central   Command   Liaison   Unit   which   also

highlighted   the   irregularities   committed   in   procurement   of   stores   at   the

Central Ordnance Depot, Chheoki. This report was seen by the GOC-in-C on

December 6, 2006. On December 9, 2006,  an order was issued on behalf of

the GOC-in-C, for convening a Court of Inquiry to investigate  the alleged

irregularities/misdemeanors   in   the   Central   Ordnance   Depot   during   the

financial years 2005-2006 and 2006-2007.   The irregularities/misdemeanors

that   were   required   to   be   inquired   into   were   listed   under   the   headings   (a)

upgradations   of   demand   and   (b)   local   purchase.   The   Court   of   Inquiry

submitted   its   report  on  January   24,  2007  in  which,  apart   from  some  other

officers, the appellant was clearly indicted. It appears that the report of the

Inquiry   Committee   was   first   placed   before   the   GOC,   MB   Area,   who   on

February   20,   2007   made   a   recommendation   in   light   of   the   report.   In   his

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recommendations   the   GOC,   MB   Area,   observed   that   the   Court   of   Inquiry

had examined only a small fraction of the local purchase and had the Court

gone   into   greater   details   more   irregularities   would   have   come   to   light.

However, on the basis of the materials coming before the Court of Inquiry,

the   GOC,   MB   Area,   found   that   there   was   adequate   evidence   regarding

cognizable   acts   of   omission/commission   committed   by   several   officers,

including the present appellant in regard to whom he observed that he was to

be   blamed   for   causing   wrongful   loss   to   the   government   to   the   tune   of

Rs.60.18 lakhs in the process of procurements of stores worth Rs.2.2 crores

by committing a number of procedural irregularities/illegalities.

6.     The report of the Court of Inquiry along with the recommendations of

the GOC, MB Area was forwarded to the GOC-in-C, CC on April 26, 2007.

On   May   7,   2007,   the   GOC-in-C,   CC   wrote   a   note   in   the   form   of

recommendations   on   the   report   of   the   Court   of   Inquiry   convened   on   his

direction. He started by saying  that he had perused the proceedings  of the

Court of Inquiry and he partially agreed with the findings and opinion of the

Court.   He   observed   that   there   was   cogent   and   adequate   material   evidence

regarding the cognizable acts of omission/commission committed by various

officers of the Central Ordnance Depot, Chheoki. In regard to the appellant

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the   GOC-in-C   made   the   following   observations   in   paragraph   6   of   his

recommendation:

“6.   The   culpability   of   IC-42501F   Col   Rajvir   Singh,   Offg

Commandant,   COD   Chheoki,   is   established   for   causing

wrongful loss to the Govt to the tune of Rs.60.18 lakhs in the

process of procurement of stores through local purchase in the

years   2005-2006   and   2006-2007   by   committing   the   following

procedural irregularities/illegalities:-“

(The   above   quoted   passage   was   followed   by   a   list   of   different

irregularities/illegalities allegedly committed by the appellant).

7.     It, however, appears that on the basis of the materials before him the

GOC-in-C, CC was also unhappy and dissatisfied with the role of one Major

General S.P. Sinha, who, at the material time, was the ADGOS (CN & A) in

the Central  Command  and who at the time the GOC-in-C was making  his

recommendation was posted as MGAOC, HQ-Western Command. Hence, in

paragraph 7 of his recommendations he stated as follows:-

“7. I recommend that a (sic.) appropriate (sic.) constituted C of

I be ordered by integrated HQ of MoD (Army), MGO’s Branch

for   investigation   into   the   acts   of   omission/commission   in

respect   of   Maj.   Gen.   SP   Sinha,   ADGOS   (CN   &   A)   and   any

other   higher   auth,   Col   Rajvir   Singh,   Offg   Commandant   and

offrs of the COD Chheoki as opined by the Court in the process

of  procurement of  stores   by   the  COD,  Chheoki   during  the  pd

2005-06 and 2006-07.”

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8.     It is significant to note that insofar as the appellant is concerned, the

GOC-in-C,   CC,   was   undeniably   the   competent   authority   to   initiate

proceeding against him and to convene a General Court Martial to try him.

Further, on the basis of the Court of Inquiry report and the recommendation

of the GOC, MB Area, the GOC-in-C, CC, had clearly formed the opinion

that the culpability of the appellant was established and there was cogent and

adequate   material   evidence   regarding   the   cognizable   acts   of

omission/commission committed by him.  Nonetheless, on May 7, 2007, the

GOC-in-C, CC did not direct for initiating proceeding against the appellant

and to convene the General Court Martial for his trial but clubbed his case

with Major General S.P. Sinha in whose case the integrated headquarter of

MoD Army was the competent authority and sent his recommendation to the

integrated HQ to hold a Court of Inquiry to examine the role of the Major

General   in   the   irregularities   committed   at   the   Central   Ordnance   Depot,

Chheoki, during his tenure there.

9.     On the basis of the recommendation made by the GOC-in-C, CC, by

his   letter   dated   February   19,   2008,   the   integrated   headquarters   of   MoD

directed the HQ, Western Command (where Major General S.P. Sinha was

at that time posted) to convene a Court of Inquiry to investigate the acts of

omission/commission   on   the   part   of   the   Major   General   the   then   ADGOS

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(CN & A), detailing the issues into which the investigation was required to

be made. A copy of the letter was sent to the GOC-in-C, CC for information

and   further   advising   him   to   issue   appropriate   directions   in   respect   of   the

appellant   who   was   indicted   by   the   Court   of   Inquiry   that   was   held   on   his

direction.

10.     It was only then that the GOC-in-C, CC gave direction for initiation of

disciplinary action against the appellant (and some other officers) vide order

dated  May 12, 2008, for the misdemeanors as stated in paragraphs 4 to 12 of

the order insofar as the appellant is concerned (and in paragraphs 13 to 16 in

regard to some other officers).

11.     Following   the   order   of   the   GOC-in-C,   CC,   a   tentative   charge-sheet

containing 18 charges was given to the appellant on August 20, 2008. The

hearing   of   charges   was   then   held   as   required   under   rule   22   of   the   Army

Rules, 1954 and at the end of the hearing, the Commanding Officer found

that none of the charges were proved and there was no sufficient evidence to

proceed further with the charges. The Confirming Authority, however, did

not accept the view taken by the Commanding Officer and by order dated

September 7, 2009, directed for taking additional summary of evidence. As

directed   by   the   Confirming   Authority,   additional   summary   was   taken   but

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once   again   the   Commanding   Officer   by   his   order   dated   March   9,   2010,

found that none of the charges were proved. The Confirming Authority i.e.

the GOC, MB Area, once again did not accept the order of the Commanding

Officer. He  framed  four charges  under section 52(f) of the  Act relating  to

financial   irregularities   in   procurement   of   store   for   the   Central   Ordnance

Depot   and   directed   the   appellant   to   be   tried   by   Court   Martial.   It   was

pursuant to this order that the General Court Martial came to be constituted

which   was   challenged   by   the   appellant   as   barred   by   limitation,   as   noted

above.

12.    Having   narrated   the   relevant   facts   we   may   now   take   a   look   at   the

provision relating to limitation. Section 122 of the Act provides as follows:-

“122. Period of limitation for trial. – (1)            Except as provided

by   sub-section   (2),   no   trial   by   court-martial   of   any   person

subject to this Act for any offence shall be commenced after the

expiration   of   a   period   of   three   years   [and   such   period   shall

commence. -

(a)     on the date of the offence; or

(b)     where   the   commission   of   the   offence   was   not

known to the person aggrieved by the offence or to

the authority competent to initiate action, the first

day   on   which   such   offence   comes   to   the

knowledge of such person or authority, whichever

is earlier; or

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(c)     where   it   is   not   known   by   whom   the   offence   was

committed,   the   first   day   on   which   the   identity   of

the offender is known to the person aggrieved  by

the offence or to the authority competent to initiate

action, whichever is earlier.]

(2)     The provisions of sub-section (1) shall not apply to

a trial for an offence of desertion or fraudulent enrolment or for

any of the offences mentioned in section 37.

(3)     In the computation of the period of time mentioned

in sub-section (1), any time spent by such person as a prisoner

of   war,   or   in   enemy   territory,   or   in   evading   arrest   after   the

commission of the offence, shall be excluded.

(4)     No   trial   for   an   offence   of   desertion   other   than

desertion on active service or of fraudulent enrolment shall be

commenced if the person in question, not being an officer, has

subsequently   to   the   commission   of   the   offence,   served

continuously   in   an   exemplary   manner   for   not   less   than   three

years with any portion of the regular Army.”

13.    On behalf of the appellant it is contended that the period of limitation

for   his   trial   before   the  Court   Martial   would  commence   from  February   20,

2007, when on the basis of the report of the Court of Inquiry, the GOC, MB

Area, sent his recommendation to the GOC-in-C, CC indicting the appellant.

It is pointed out that it was the GOC, MB Area, who passed the order dated

August   23/26,   2010   convening   the   General   Court   Martial,   directed   the

Commanding Officer to take further summary of evidence in the hearing of

the  charges   under  rule  22  and   finally  passed  the  order   directing  the   Court

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Martial to reassemble for the appellant’s trial. It is, thus, the GOC, MB Area

who is the competent authority to take action against the appellant and it is

the date of his knowledge of the commission of the alleged offence and the

identity of the appellant as the alleged offender that is relevant under section

122.

14.       It   is   further   submitted   that   in   any   event   the   GOC-in-C,   CC   was

undeniably  the  competent  authority  to  initiate  action  against  the  appellant.

On May 7, 2007, the alleged offence and the identity of the appellant as the

alleged   offender   was   fully   within   his   knowledge   on   the   basis   of   the

recommendation of GOC, MB Area and the report of the Court of Inquiry

ordered   by   him.   His   knowledge   is   evident   from   his   recommendation   to

Integrated HQ, wherein, he stated that the culpability of the appellant  was

established. The period of limitation must, therefore, commence from a date

not later than May 7, 2007 and reckoning from that date, the period of three

years came to end on May 6, 2010. But the order for convening the General

Court Martial was finally passed by the GOC, MB Area on August 23/26,

2010, that is, clearly beyond the period of limitation. Hence, the appellant’s

trial before the General Court Martial was clearly hit by section 122 and was

barred by limitation.

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15.     On behalf of the respondents, on the other hand, it is argued that the

period   of   limitation   in   this   case   can   only   commence   from   May   12,   2008

when the GOC-in-C, CC directed that disciplinary action be initiated against

the   appellant   and   that   later   date   must   be   deemed   to   be   the   date   when   the

competent authority had the knowledge within the meaning of section 122 of

the Act.

16.     This is  the argument adopted  both in the  order  passed by the GOC,

MB Area and the decision of the Tribunal upholding that order.

17.      In the order, dated March 29, 2011 passed by the GOC, MB Area, in

paragraph 34, it is observed as under: -

“If the law laid down by the Hon’ble Supreme Court had been

followed, the only question which the Court was to decide was,

(sic.) which was the date on which the authority competent to

initiate action issued its direction to initiate disciplinary action.

However, the reasons given by the Court show  that the Court

was squarely guided by the issues framed by the learned Judge

Advocate, which ran absolutely contrary to the law laid down

by   the   Hon’ble   Supreme   Court   (as   also   the   policy   in   vogue

referred to by the learned Advocate Judge)”.

(emphasis added)

18.     Affirming   the   view   taken   by   the   GOC,   MB   Area,   the   Tribunal   in

paragraph 12 of its judgment held and observed as follows -

“In the case at hand on 7/5/2007, the date on which the applicant

alleges   the   competent   authority   to   have   acquired   knowledge,

perusal  of  the said  document which  is  Annexure  No.  A-6  to the

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Original   Application   reveals   that  the   respondent   No.   3   is   not

able to form an opinion as to whether or not any offence has

been   established   and   furthermore   he   is   not   able   to   form   a

definite opinion regarding culpability of the applicant therefore

he   recommends   for   constitution   of   an   appropriately   constituted

Court   of   Inquiry   by   Integrated   HQ   of   the   Mod   (Army),   MGO’s

Branch for investigation into the acts of omission/commission in

respect of ADGOS (CN & A), the applicant and the officers of the

Central   Ordnance   Depot,   Chheoki.             Thus   it   cannot   be

conclusively established regarding knowledge of the offence by

respondent   No.   3   at   this   stage.   However,   pursuant   to

recommendations   of   7/5/2007   HQ   Central   Command

approached   Integrated   HQ   of   the   Mod   (Army)   for   further

inquiry   in   respect   of   officers   for   their   involvement   in   the

allegations.   On   12/5/2008   the   respondent   No.   3   perused   the

proceedings   of   the   Court   of   Inquiry   held   to   investigate   the

allegations   of   various   irregularities   in   Central   Ordnance

Depot,   Chheoki   and   agreed   with   the   recommendations   of

General   Officer   Commanding   Madhya   Bharat   Area.   The

culpability   of   applicant,   according   to   respondent   No.   3   was

established   for   causing   wrongful   loss   to   the   Government.

Upon being so satisfied regarding establishment of culpability

the   respondent   No.   3   on   12/5/2008   he   directed   disciplinary

action   against   the   applicant.   It   is   that   date   which   would   be

counted as starting point towards computation of limitation for the

purposes of Section 122(l) (b) of the Act.”

(emphasis

added)

19.     As noted above, both the GOC, MB Area and the Tribunal, base their

orders on the decisions of this Court in. V.N. Singh (supra) and J.S. Sekhon

(supra).   The decisions of the GOC, MB Area and the Tribunal appear to be

based on a complete misinterpretation of the two decisions of the Court. In

both,  V.N. Singh  and  J.S. Sekhon, the real issue before the Court was who

14

was the competent authority to initiate action against the delinquent officer

and whose knowledge would be relevant for the purpose of section 122 of

the Act. In both cases, it was contended, on behalf of the delinquent officers,

that the knowledge of “the person aggrieved” long preceded the knowledge

of the competent authority and reckoning from the date of knowledge of “the

aggrieved   person”,   the   order   convening   the   General   Court   Martial   was

barred by limitation. In V.N. Singh, it was submitted on behalf of the officer

that   one   Brigadier   K.S.   Bharucha   was   the   aggrieved   person   and   in  J.S.

Sekhon,   it   was   submitted   that   the   Commander   Works   Engineer   was   the

person aggrieved and if the period of limitation was computed from the date

of their knowledge then the order convening the General Court Martial was

barred by limitation. In both cases, the Court held that that part of section

122   that   referred   to   the   knowledge   of   the   person   aggrieved   had   no

application to the facts of the case and the relevant date for computing the

period of limitation was the date of knowledge of the competent authority to

initiate action against the delinquent officer. In paragraphs 32 and 34 of the

decision in V.N. Singh, the Court observed as follows: -

“32.   The   term   “the   person   aggrieved   by   the   offence”   would   be

attracted to natural persons i.e. human beings who are victims of

an offence complained of, such as offences relating to a person or

property and not to juristic persons like an organisation as in the

present   case.   The   plain   and   dictionary   meaning   of   the   term

“aggrieved”   means   hurt,   angry,   upset,   wronged,   maltreated,

15

persecuted, victimised etc. It is only the natural persons who can

be   hurt,   angry,   upset   or   wronged   or   maltreated   etc.   If   a

Government organisation is treated to be an aggrieved person then

the   second   part   of   Section 122(1)   (b) i.e.   “when   it   comes   to   the

knowledge of the competent authority to initiate action” will never

come into play as the commission of offence will always be in the

knowledge of the authority who is a part of the organisation and

who may not be the authority competent to initiate the action. A

meaningful   reading  of the  provisions   of  Section 122(1)(b) makes

it absolutely clear that in the case of government organisation, it

will be the date of knowledge of the authority competent to initiate

the   action,   which   will   determine   the   question   of   limitation.

Therefore,   the   finding   of   the   High   Court   that   Brigadier   K.S.

Bharucha   was   an   aggrieved   person   is   legally   and   factually

incorrect and unsustainable.

34. The facts of the present case establish that the Technical Court

of Inquiry was convened by DDST, Headquarter Delhi Area on 8-

1-1994   which   recommended   examination   of   certain   essential

witnesses for bringing into light the correct details and the persons

responsible  for  the irregularities  by  a Staff  Court of Inquiry  and

accordingly the Staff Court of Inquiry was ordered on 7-5-1994 by

GOC-in-C Western Command which concluded in its report dated

31-8-1994,   mentioning   for   the   first   time   the   involvement   of   the

respondent   in   the   offence.   The   GOC,   Delhi   Area   i.e.   the   next

Authority   in  chain   of  command   to  the   respondent   recommended

on   19-10-1994   initiation   of   disciplinary   action   against   the

respondent   whereas   the   GOC-in-C,   Western   Command   gave

directions on 3-12-1994, to initiate disciplinary action against the

respondent. Therefore, the date of commencement of the period of

limitation for the purpose of GCM of the respondent, commenced

on   3-12-1994   when   direction   was   given   by   GOC-in-C,   Western

Command   to   initiate   disciplinary   action   against   the   respondent.

The   plea   that   the   date   of   submission   of   the   report   by   Technical

Court of Inquiry should be treated as the date from which period

of   limitation   shall   commence   has   no   substance.   It   is   relevant   to

notice that no definite conclusion about the correct details and the

persons   responsible   for   the   irregularities   was   mentioned   in   the

report   of   Technical   Court   of   Inquiry.   On   the   facts   and   in   the

circumstances of the case, this Court is of the view that the High

16

Court wrongly concluded that the period of limitation expired on

4-3-1996.”

20.     Similarly, in paragraphs 16 and 19 of the decision in  J.S. Sekhon, it

was held as follows -

“16. According  to the counsel  appearing  for the appellant,  when

the   vigilance   check   report   was   submitted,   Commander   Works

Engineer who is the person aggrieved came to know that there was

a commission of an offence and therefore period of limitation as

envisaged   under   Section 122 of   the   Act   would   commence   from

that   date   and   when   limitation   is   computed   from   the   said   date,

convening of the General  Court Martial  on 9-3-1998  was barred

by   time,   as   it   was   beyond   the   period   of   three   years   as

contemplated under Section 122 of the Army Act.

19.   In   our   considered   opinion,   the   expression   “person   aggrieved

by the offence” is irrelevant in the facts and circumstances of the

present   case   and   what   is   relevant   is   the   “knowledge   of   the

authority   competent   to   initiate   action”.   The   aforesaid   acts   were

committed against the Government and not a natural person. In the

facts   of   the   present   case   no   single   person   can   be   said   to   be

aggrieved   person   individually   due   to   the   act   of   defrauding   the

Army. What is applicable to the facts of the case is the expression

when   it   comes   to   the   knowledge   of   the   competent   authority   to

initiate action.”

21.     In both the cases, the authority competent to initiate action against the

delinquent   officer   had   passed   the   direction   for   taking   action   against   the

delinquent officer on the same day it came to know about the commission of

the offence and the identity of the offender. Hence, in both cases, at some

places,   the   date   of   knowledge   and   date   of   the   direction   to   initiate   action

against the delinquent officer are used interchangeably and that is the reason

17

for   the   Tribunal   to   misinterpret   the   decision   to   mean   that   the   period   of

limitation   would   commence   from   the   date   of   direction   to   initiate   action

against the delinquent officer.

22.     The   Tribunal   is   also   incorrect   in   observing   that   on   May   7,   2007,

GOC-in-C,   CC   had   formed   only   a   tentative   opinion   about   the   appellant

because on that date he made the recommendation to the Integrated HQ for

investigation   into   the   act   of   omission/commission   in   respect   of   Major

General S.P. Sinha and any other higher authority, including the appellant. It

is   noted   above   that   the   recommendation   of   the   GOC-in-C,   CC   to   the

Integrated HQ was only in regard to Major General S.P. Sinha. So far as the

culpability of the appellant is concerned, he had already formed the opinion

on the basis of the report of the Court of Inquiry and the recommendation of

the   GOC,   MB   Area.   Moreover,   when   the   Integrated   HQ   vide   its   letter   of

February 19, 2008 pointed out that the appellant was indicted by the Court

of   Inquiry   ordered   by   him   and   in   his   case   it   was   for   him   to   “append

directions”,   there   was   no   further   material   before   the   GOC-in-C,   CC   in

connection with the appellant. The order that the GOC-in-C, CC passed on

May   12,   2008  for   taking   disciplinary   action   against   the   appellant   reads   as

follows: -

“1. I have perused the proceedings of the Court of Inquiry held to

investigate   the   allegations   of   various   irregularities   in   Central

18

Ordnance Depot, Chheoki vide Headquarters Central Command,

convening   order   Number   174091/57/C/A(PC),   dated   09

December 06 and generally agree with the recommendations of

the General Officer Commanding, Madhya Bharat Area.

2.    The Court of Inquiry proceedings reveal that there is cogent

and   adequate   evidence   on   record   to   establish   various   acts   of

omission/commissions   on   part   of   certain   officers   of   Central

Ordnance   Depot,   Chheoki   as   mentioned   in   the   succeeding

paragraphs.

IC-42501F Colonel Rajvir Singh

4.   The   culpability   of   IC-42501F   Colonel   Rajvir   Singh,

Officiating   Commandant,   Central   Ordnance   Depot   Chheoki,   is

established  for causing wrongful loss to the Government to the

tune of Rs. 60.18 Lakhs (Rupees Sixty Lakh eighteen thousand

only)   in   the   process   of   procurement   of   stores   through   local

purchase   in   the   year   2005-06   and   2006-07,   by   committing   the

following illegalities:-

(a) xxx

(b) xxx

(c) xxx

5. xxx

6. xxx

7. xxx

8. xxx

9. xxx

10. xxx

11. xxx

12. xxx

13. to 16. xxxxxxx

17.   Apropos   above,   I   direct   that   disciplinary   action   against   the

above   mentioned   officers   be   initiated   for   the   misdemeanors   as

mentioned against each of them in Para 4 to 16 above.”

23.     It is, thus, to be seen that the order dated May 12, 2008 is almost in

identical  words as the one passed on May 7, 2007. There is, therefore, no

19

escape   from   the   fact   that   the   GOC-in-C,   CC   was   in   knowledge   of   the

offence and the identity of the appellant as one of the alleged offenders on

May 7, 2007. Reckoning from that date, the order passed by the GOC, MB

Area, to convene the General Court Martial on August 23/26, 2010 is clearly

beyond the period of three years and hence, barred in terms of section 122.

24.     One feels sorry to see a trial on such serious charges being aborted on

grounds of limitation but that is the mandate of the law. It is seen above that

GOC-in-C, CC had come to know about the offence and the offender being

the appellant on May 7, 2007. It took one year from that date for him to pass

the   order   for   initiating   disciplinary   action   against   him   on   May   12,   2008.

There were still two years in hand, which is no little time but that too was

spent in having more than one rounds of hearing of the charges in terms of

rule   22   with   the   result   that   by   the   time   the   order   came   to   be   passed   to

convene General Court Martial, more than three years had lapsed from the

date of the knowledge of the competent authority.

25.     Before   concluding,   we   may   also   note   that   other   officers   who   were

allegedly   involved   in   irregular   purchases   for   the   Central   Ordnance   Depot,

Chheoki,   also   seem   to   have   got   away   with   very   light,   if   at   all,   any

punishment.   Major   General   S.P.   Sinha   was   subjected   to   an   administrative

action in which an order was passed on August 6, 2010 expressing severe

20

displeasure (non-recordable) against him. Lt. Col. Neeraj Gaur was finally

acquitted   by   the   General   Court   Martial.   Lt.   Col.   Aloke   Ghose   was   given

severe   displeasure   (non-recordable)   after   the   Commanding   Officer   found

charges   against   him   not   proved.   Major   (now   Lt.   Col.)   M.K.   Bawa   was

similarly   given   severe   displeasure   (non-recordable)   after   the   Commanding

Officer   found   charges   against   him   not   proved.   Against   Lt.   Col.   Uma

Shankar   no   further   action   was   taken   after   charges   against   him   were   not

proved in SoE.

26.    In light of the discussions made above, the appeal must succeed. The

judgment and order passed by the Tribunal is set aside and the direction by

the GOC, MB Area, for reassembly of the General Court Martial is quashed.

27.    The appeal is allowed. There will be no order as to costs.

………………………………………J

(AFTAB ALAM)

…………………………

……………J

(CHANDRAMAULI   KR. PRASAD)

New Delhi,

February 15, 2012

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