A joint court martial of two retired Major Generals in Army’s Eastern Command, over irregularities in purchase of quadcopters (drones) under the Army Commanders Special Financial Powers Fund in 2016, began on Thursday.
Maj Gen B Chakravarty (retd) and Maj Gen Anup Kumar (retd) are facing General Court Martial in Kachrapara military station near Kolkata. Both were serving in Eastern Command Headquarters in Kolkata when the deal for drones was signed.
Maj Gen Chakravarty faces five charges under Section 63 of Army Act (violation of good order and military discipline), three charges under Section 52 (f) (intent to defraud) and two charges under Section 57 (falsifying official documents).
Maj Gen Kumar faces four charges under Section 52 (f) and alternate four charges under Section 63.
Both officers have denied any wrongdoing in the affair and have defended their bona fide actions.
Presiding officer of the court martial is Lt Gen Tumul Verma, General Office Commanding 101 Area. Five Major Generals are members of the court martial.
Seven more officers — two Brigadiers, three Colonels and two Lt-Colonels — have also been issued showcause notice related to various lapses concerning this deal. The Indian Express had reported in September 2018 that the Army was investigating irregularities in procurement of drones in the Eastern Command. Documents had revealed that the investigation pertained to purchase of 67 quadcopters at a cost of approximately Rs 6 crore under the Army Commanders Special Financial Powers Fund in 2016.
The Army cancelled the supply order after finding the equipment defective during acceptance test procedure. A Court of Inquiry had earlier been held at HQs 17 Corps to inquire into the procurement process in Ranchi.
An officer said, “Since there is no provision of taking any administrative action against retired officers, hence the court martial has been ordered. There is no financial bungling which has come to light in the inquiry but there have been procedural irregularities. Also, the purchase of drones finally did not take place.”
In April 2016, the Eastern Command had a floated a Request For Proposal (RFP), inviting bids for procurement of 67 quadcopters (day/night) medium-range equipment out of the Army Commanders Special Financial Power Fund for 2015-16. After being successful in the techno-commercial bidding process, a Mumbai-based private firm — Sure Safety Private Ltd — was selected to fulfil the order by the then Major General (Artillery) on behalf of the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Command, in December 2016.
In March 2018, Eastern Command HQs cancelled the order on the grounds that the suppliers had committed a breach of supply order by failing to supply the entire quantity of quadcopters in time, and that the quadcopters supplied had failed to meet the qualitative requirements. The Army alleged that prima facie, the firm had misrepresented capabilities of the quadcopters to project the firm as technically qualified when it was not meeting the threshold eligibility.