The Delhi High Court on Monday asked the Centre and the Army about the status of a recent complaint lodged by a jawan claiming poor quality of food being served to the troops where he was posted. “What has happened to the complaint? It was lodged on June 6. Why are you offended by it? Why are you taking time to look into that,” Justice Vinod Goel asked the Centre and the Army.
The queries were posed by the court during the hearing of the jawan’s plea alleging there was a threat to his life and seeking protection from any harm. The government and the Army said the complaint was being looked into by the appropriate authority, but was being delayed as the jawan had gone on leave from June 28. They also said the jawan was a habitual offender, who has been awarded rigorous imprisonment for various periods on five occasions for deserting duty, and he was medically unfit.
The punishment is served by a jawan in military custody, its lawyer told the court and added that these facts were not disclosed by the trooper in his plea before the court, which showed he had not come forward with clean hands, they said. The government and the Army, represented by central government standing counsel Ajay Digpaul, also said that officers and jawans work together like a family and the same ration is given to both the groups. He also said that the jawan on June 21 was awarded another rigorous imprisonment but was allowed to go on leave without serving the sentence on his request that there was a family emergency.
The lawyer for the jawan argued that his client had not filed the case to escape from any posting or to seek a transfer, but to protect his life from harm because of the issue he has raised. After hearing arguments of both the sides, the court reserved its order. The jawan, posted in Assam, has alleged in his plea that authorities had started harassing him after he complained that the troopers were being served with poor quality food.
The matter assumes significance as in January, a BSF jawan had also made similar allegations on social media which was termed as false by the paramilitary force. BSF jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav had posted a video on Facebook showing a meal box comprising a watery soup-like dal which he said had only turmeric and salt and a burnt chapati. He had claimed that they often went to bed on empty stomach.
Following this, a public interest litigation was filed in the high court seeking direction to the Ministry of Home Affairs to submit a status report with respect quality of food supplied to all paramilitary forces in India. The petition was filed by a former central government employee in the wake of the video posted on Facebook by Yadav alleging corruption among officers and poor working conditions. The BSF, however, had brushed aside the claim of graft, saying there are committees to deal with purchase of food items and even inspect it after it is cooked.