The Chief of Army Staff’s commendation card to Major Nitin Leetul Gogoi, who got a Kashmiri man tied to the bonnet of his jeep to deter protesters during polling in Budgam on April 9, was awarded “on the spot” by General Bipin Rawat during his visit to Srinagar on May 1, Army sources told The Indian Express.
“The COAS Commendation Cards are routinely announced on August 15 and January 26. But in some cases, these are awarded ‘on the spot’, at the discretion of the Army Chief,” sources said.
“In the last two months, the Army Chief has given 15-20 ‘on the spot’ commendation cards. The Army headquarters then notifies them as soon as possible,” said sources.
Such ‘on the spot’ commendations are usually awarded to those who are present when the Army Chief makes the pronouncement. But, sources said, Major Gogoi was not present when General Rawat declared the award at the 15 Corps Headquarters at Badami Bagh Cantonment in Srinagar during his visit on May 1-2. The award was not officially announced by the Army at the time.
In most cases, the commendation card is given through a written citation, initiated by the unit, which is approved by various headquarters and vetting committees at the Command and Army headquarters. These commendation cards are part of the list of awards announced on Independence Day and Republic Day.
In Major Gogoi’s case, sources said he was “awarded COAS Commendation Card for his sustained distinguished service till now in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu & Kashmir”.
As this award was reportedly not for a particular act, it would, in routine course, be processed through a proper citation, initiated by Major Gogoi’s unit, 53 Rashtriya Rifles.
Sources said the ongoing Army probe into the tying up of the civilian on the jeep’s bonnet do not have a bearing on the award, as the “overall emerging indicators of the Court of Inquiry have been well-considered”.
Sources said the Court of Inquiry’s report has been finalised, but is yet to be approved by the convening authority.
Sources said the awards are meant to encourage troops and that the COAS commendation card to Major Gogoi should be seen in that light. “The Army Chief knows what is best for his men,” said sources.
“The award does not mean that Major Gogoi’s action is now accepted as the norm, or becomes a part of the SOP (Standard Operating Procedure). Each act depends on the situation,” said sources.