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Sunday, July 22, 2018

Court martial dropped against head of covert Army ops unit

The General Court Martial, being presided upon by a Brigadier, came to a decision shortly after midnight Thursday in Ambala.

Written by Man Aman Singh Chhina | Updated: March 24, 2018 7:16:02 am
indian army, court martial, army operations unit, cl hunny bakshi, general vk singh, army covert ops, indian express The GCM, being presided upon by a Brigadier, came to a decision shortly after midnight Thursday in Ambala.

A General Court Martial has dropped all proceedings against Colonel Hunny Bakshi, the former commanding officer of the disbanded Technical Services Division (TSD), after accepting a plea to the jurisdiction — the challenge to the court’s authority for lack of jurisdiction. A covert operations unit, the TSD was formed by General V K Singh when he was Army chief and disbanded after his retirement.

The GCM, being presided upon by a Brigadier, came to a decision shortly after midnight Thursday in Ambala. Col Bakshi’s plea to the jurisdiction was accepted. He had cited legal infirmities in the Court of Inquiry against him and said he had not been provided documents crucial to his defence, nor given adequate opportunity to cross-examine witnesses.

Col (retd) Virender Kumar, counsel for Col Bakshi, confirmed that the GCM had dropped all proceedings against his client. Col Kumar said that in May 2010, General V K Singh, who was then Army chief, had set up a special intelligence organisation called the TSD in Delhi. This set up, he said, worked directly under the then DG, Military Intelligence. There were three officers and other supporting clerical staff and Col Bakshi was heading the TSD.

The unit was disbanded after General V K Singh retired. An inquiry was conducted into the affairs of the TSD, including its financial transactions, by Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia, the then Director General, Military Operations.

In May 2012, Havildar (clerk) Sham Dass D of TSD, while on leave, was intercepted, allegedly handing over a CD containing classified data pertaining to TSD to an agent of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence in Thiruvananthapuram. He was brought to Delhi and attached to a unit under the Delhi Area for investigation.

A Court of Inquiry was ordered against Sham Dass in June 2012 by GOC, Delhi Area, who, on completion of the inquiry, ordered disciplinary action against him in October 2012. He also recommended disciplinary action against Col Bakshi and two other officers. The Court of Inquiry had to be re-assembled in August 2013 to give them a chance to defend themselves.

In September 2015, the GOC Delhi Area again recommended disciplinary action against the three officers via court martial. In the meantime, the Havildar (clerk) was tried, awarded 10 years rigorous imprisonment and dismissed from service.

Col Bakshi was attached to an armoured brigade in Nabha, Punjab, in October 2015 for recording of summary of evidence for trial via GCM. “The officer then moved AFT, Delhi against his attachment, recording of summary evidence and the vindictive manner of conducting Court of Inquiry without affording him due opportunity to defend himself against the said allegations as apportioned by the GOC, Delhi Area and obtained a stay order against the proposed court martial by the Army authorities in December 2015. Ultimately, the stay order was vacated by AFT, Delhi in July 2017,” his counsel said.

Trial commenced in Ambala in August 2017 and Col Bakshi’s lawyer raised the issue of holding the trial without providing him requisite documents. These documents were provided to him on the order of the court martial. The trial was still at a preliminary stage when his plea to the jurisdiction was accepted by the GCM.

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