A disabled retired Army officer has served a legal notice on Lieutenant Gen Ashwani Kumar (retd), former Adjutant General of the Army, who retired on Oct 31, for allegedly making disparaging remarks against personnel with disability during an interview to a TV channel.
The issue has raised lot of controversy ever since the interview was telecast on the day Lt Gen Kumar retired from service. Veteran senior officers, including several Army Commanders and a former Chief of Army Staff, have expressed their indignation and reservations at the contents of the interview.
Lt Col Niraj Bakshi (retd), a resident of Greater Noida, who retired from Army with 30 per cent disability has served the legal notice on Kumar. Seeking damaged worth Rs 1 crore and an apology, the officer has said the General spoke disparagingly about disability pensioners and persons with disability conveying as if many such pensioners do not deserve disability benefits.
“You even spoke disparagingly about ‘hypertension’ as if it is not even a medical condition and also underlined that there should be incentive for those people who retire in a fit shape from the Army and not those who retire in low medical category as if any medical condition, disability, disease, disorder or injury is in a person’s own hands,” the notice reads.
The legal notice goes on to say that the General also made comments on disability pension despite the fact that the case was under consideration by the Defence Minister and was also under adjudication in the Supreme Court. “You, merely being an officer of an attached office, had the temerity to make uncalled for comments which go against the statement of the minister handling the entire defence ministry, under the Union of India,” it further reads.
The legal notice has also touched upon the comments made by Lt Gen Kumar regarding instituting a ‘Code of Conduct’ for retiring officers of the Army. Citing it as an “illegal supposition”, the legal notice says retirees are not bound by service rules and those who run foul of law are convicted under the IPC. “By talking of such an illegal theory you have maligned the image of all military retirees as if they are meant to follow your dictates or that they are not indulging in respectable behaviour in civil life,” the notice says.
The notice also asks the Ministry of Defence to inform whether permission of the central government, as requuired under Rule 21 of Army Rules, 1954, was taken by the General and was the Defence Minister informed about the contents of the interview which cast an aspersion on the character of disabled and other military veterans. “Also please ensure that in case the officer had not been granted sanction for the interview, efforts to procure the same by back-dating documents is not undertaken and requisite action under service rules is initiated,” the legal notice says.
Social media has seen vociferous opposition to the comments made by Lt Gen Kumar. Former Western Army Commander, Lt Gen Surinder Singh (retd), tweeted that “He was merely communicating what the Army Chief wishes to do. These half baked ideas are probably being tossed up to test response. There also seems to be a deliberate attempt to cause friction between Army and its veterans”.
Former Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Arun Prakash (retd) tweeted, “Let us first implement an honour code or code of conduct for mour serving senior officers. Keeping ‘arms length’ from political posturing should be one of the KRAs”.
Lt Gen Prakash Katoch (retd), a former special forces officer tweeted, “What a disgrace-but who gave him permission to give this interview”?