April 18, 2018 8:44:40 pm
The Supreme Court on Wednesday held an Indian naval officer guilty of making sexually explicit calls to wives of fellow officers, but reinstated him in service after forfeiting his two years’ seniority and depriving him of five years’ salary. The apex court upheld the order of the Armed Force Tribunal (AFT), which had pronounced him guilty on seven charges and had directed that he be reinstated after forfeiture of 24 months’ seniority, rejecting the officer’s contention that the tribunal’s conclusion was “utterly perverse”.
A bench of justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan said that the “ends of justice” will be met in the case as the officer has been out of service since January 26 2013, and his seniority has been forfieted by 24 months. “However, no case is made out that the conclusion arrived at by the Tribunal was utterly perverse which no reasonable person could have arrived at. We have not found any such infirmity at all,” the bench said after examining the records.
The top court said that it does not find any merit in the appeal preferred by the officer against the order of the AFT. The court martial had found the officer guilty on ten charges and imposed a sentence of “dismissal from the naval service” as well as forfeiture of 24 calender months of seniority. The officer challenged the order of court martial before the AFT which found him guilty of seven charges and set aside the finding of “guilty” on three charges.
It arrived at the conclusion that the punishment of “dismissal from service” is disproportionate to the nature of charges and observed that when the respondent (officer) had been awarded the punishment of dismissal from service, second punishment of forfeiture of seniority for 24 months did not make any sense.
The tribunal, on these grounds, set aside the punishment of dismissal from the service and held that interest of justice would be met if only the punishment of forfeiture of seniority of 24 months is inflicted upon the officer. It directed the Navy to reinstate the officer in naval service without payment of any salary for the intervening period that is the back wages.
The apex court agreed with the findings of the tribunal and court martial that the officer maintained inconsistent and contradictory stand over the usuage of SIM card through which calls were made through the Navy telephone exchange to the wives of officers. The court also held that Naval Officers Residential Area telephone exchange correctly showed that the calls originated from the SIM card which was owned by the accused officer.
The officer was commissioned in Indian Navy on January 1, 1998 as Sub. Lieutenant and was promoted to the rank of Commander on January 16, 2011 posted as the Executive Officer of INS Mahish at Port Blair in Andaman Island.
In June 2, 2011, he was transferred to INS Viraat as Commander Operations and joined the duty at the vessel on June 29, 2011 at Kochi. All the obscene calls to the three wives of other officers were made from the SIM card of the accused officer from June 21 to July 1 after which they complained to their husbands, who in turn reported to their senior officers.
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