The Delhi High Court Tuesday said the private sale of army apparel and gear was a “serious issue” since these have been used by terrorists to strike at military bases and sought to know the government’s stand on the matter. “Yes, we know it is a serious issue. Otherwise we would not take it up”, a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath said when the NGO, which has raised the issue citing the terror strike at Pathankot air base early this year, submitted that the private sale of military apparel and gear was a cause for concern.
“We want to know your response,” the bench told the lawyer appearing for the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The Pathankot Air Force base was attacked in January this year by terrorists dressed in Indian Army fatigues, leading to the death of seven security personnel including a Lieutenant Colonel, and a civilian. Last month, terrorists dressed in police uniform had attacked the army’s XVI Corps headquarters at Nagrota in Jammu district, killing seven security personnel including two officers.
The court listed the plea for further hearing on February 3 next year. Advocate K R Chitra, appearing for the NGO Fight for Human Rights, told the court that after the Pathankot incident the petition was filed and subsequently a representation was made before the competent authority, but no action was taken.
The court on July 20 this year had asked the ministry to treat the issue raised as a representation and take a decision within three months. She said that subsequent to the July 20 order, she had again made a representation to the government. However, no response was received and therefore, she has now again moved the court.
The advocate claimed that as per a January 8, 2016 notification issued by the Indian Army, civilians and private shopkeepers have been directed not to wear or sell military apparel and gear.
The NGO has sought steps to curb private sale and manufacture of military apparel, like uniforms, shoes, badges and other gear used by the armed forces which were being made by private industries in Ludhiana and Amritsar in Punjab and sold all over the country. One place where such articles are sold is at the Railway Market at Pathankot, the NGO has claimed.
The PIL has also sought that MoD be directed to handlewith immediate effect the responsibility of manufacturing, stocking and sale of military apparel and gear used by the armed forces, saying private shops do not check to whom they sell such articles.