IN A first-of-its-kind case, an Army Court of Inquiry has used technical evidence — phone call records, mobile tower locations and WhatsApp messages — to establish that an Infantry Colonel was in a relationship with the wife of another Colonel.
The Court of Inquiry also took note of the complainant husband’s deposition that when he brought the matter to the notice of the Colonel of the Regiment, an officer of the rank of Lt General, the latter told him to stay away from his estranged wife.
The Court of Inquiry is learnt to have noted that despite its best efforts, it could not secure the attendance of the Colonel of the Regiment as a witness, and had to conclude the inquiry after verbal directions from superior authorities.
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However, the inquiry panel is learnt to have recommended the holding of a separate inquiry into the involvement of the senior officer in the case.
“Stealing the affection of brother officer’s wife” is a serious offence under the Army Act Section 69, to be read in conjunction with Section 497 of the IPC, and is punishable by five years of rigorous imprisonment.
Significantly, the presiding officer of the inquiry, Brig NK Dabas, was removed when the inquiry was still in progress and some senior officers were expected to be summoned as witnesses.
The complainant Colonel, who was commanding an infantry battalion in Jammu and Kashmir, had made a complaint through a demi-official letter, dated August 13, 2015, addressed to the then Brigade Commander with a copy to General Officer Commanding 19 Infantry Division, General Officer Commanding 15 Corps, Director General National Cadet Corps, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Northern Command, Chief of Army Staff General Dalbir Singh and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.
In this letter, he had alleged that another officer of the rank of Colonel, who was from his battalion and under whom he had served for several years and was now posted in NCC, had been sending sexually explicit messages to his wife and that he believed both were in an illicit relationship.
Based on the complaint, a Court of Inquiry was ordered vide Headquarters Delhi Area in 2015.
The Court of Inquiry found that both the Colonels were from the same battalion, which the complainant had joined in 1999 while the accused officer was the adjutant of the unit. Since then, they had served together in
many locations, including Chandimandir.
The inquiry noted that the complainant Colonel had synchronised the mobile number of his wife with his laptop, and after seeing the messages being exchanged by his wife and the accused Colonel, it became clear to him that the two were having an extramarital affair.
Noting that in all cases where such allegations were made it was impossible to get an eyewitness or conclusive evidence, the Court of Inquiry analysed all available circumstantial and technical evidence.
One of the clinching pieces of evidence cited by the inquiry was that the wife of the complainant sent an SMS to her friend in December 2014 stating that she was “waiting for January 4, 2015, imagine a wife waiting for her husband to leave”.
The Court of Inquiry said it found it “uncommon for any normal Army wife to have such feelings for her husband, especially while he was posted at high-risk counter insurgency infested operational area where he might have lost his life or limb”.