Indian Armed Forces gripped by unique syndrome

– India’s Army, Navy, Air Force grappling with variety of sex abuse cases – Incidents of wife-swapping in Indian Armed Forces become routine – Stealing affection of brother Officer’s wife emerges as a routine affair – Major General sacked for sexual assault on junior female officer – IAF’s Squadron Leader Anjali committed suicide after justice denied in sex abuse complain – Army Major faked suicide to elope with fellow officer’s wife – Lt.General molested junior officer’s wife during official trip to Israel – Indian army sacked 7 Brigadiers and Generals for sex abuses from 1994 to 1997 – Commodore Sukhjinder ousted from service for affair with a Russian woman, causing huge financial loses to Indian Navy – India’s UN peacekeeping mission earned absolute shame thru sex abuses in Congo – Indian officers also arrested by South African Police for sex assaults on local women
By Makhdoom Babar ( Editor-in-Chief)
( with input from Christina Palmer, Anjali Sharma, Ajay Mehta, Kapil Verma, Pramjeet Kaur & Ashok Trivedi)
Whisky and Aspirin, Aspirin and Whisky. This was what Indian Defense Minister AK Antony was repeating at his office at New Delhi on 14th May 2013 while he was preparing to address the high profile Conference of the top Commanders of the Indian Navy after a few hours. But addressing the top Navy commanders meeting was not the reason behind his anxiety and high level of mental disturbance that he was suffering from at the very that moment. The actual reason behind all the discomfort and distress of the Indian Defense Minister was a written intelligence report that he was reading right there. The report was about a fresh incident of sexual abuse in the Indian Navy in which the wife of a Navy officer had lodged a formal complaint about her husband forcing her to consume alcohol and also to have sex with his colleagues from the Navy.
This report was not the first of its kind as the Indian defense Minister was really huffing over the past few years by receiving such reports from all the three Armed Forces of India that come under his direct command including the Indian Army, Indian Air Force and Indian Navy, apart from several other military and paramilitary Forces and the Minister found him an acute helpless stage to overcome this unique syndrome that had gripped the Indian Armed Forces very forcefully with no apparent way out.
The Daily Mail’s investigations reveal that the syndrome of sex abuse has crept into the Indian Armed Forces at every level. It remains a fact that the cases of sexual abuses at the lower level seldom come to the limelight while the cases of the similar nature, involving Officers , some how manage to make it to the media, though not every time. These investigations indicate that in most of the cases involving officers of the Armed Forces, the leadership of the Services normally tries to hush up the issues but when the things go too wild, the action is taken, though with a pinch of salt. The Daily Mail’s investigations also indicate that whenever any female officer from any of the three Armed Forces of India lodged any complaint of sex abuse by Seniors or fellow officers, she actually invited acute trouble for herself as never in the history of Indian armed forces, any such complaint by any female officer was entertained on merit and in fact in almost every such case, every complainant female officer was instead punished and removed from the service with Squadron Leader Anjali Gupta of the IAF and Captain Poonam Kaur of the Indian Army being the top examples in this direction.
The Daily mail’s investigations indicate that Major General Lal who was Commander of powerful 3rd Infantry Division of the Indian Army, fell from grace soon after he, during a Yoga ( traditional Indian exercise) asked his junior woman officer to assist him with his fitness regime.
For acts that he committed during that yoga session, which according to the lady officer were sexual in nature, he was Court-Martialed the same year after a Court of Inquiry found him culpable of acts unbecoming of an officer. The charges from the woman officer led to bitter acrimony, with Lal’s family, his wife and daughter, jumping into the fray with counter-charges at a press conference held in Chandigarh, where it was alleged that the complainant’s behaviour too was not officer-like. They claimed that there were negative internal reports about her conduct in the army, prior to her making the sexual harassment allegation.
General Lal’s Court Martial, though, held him guilty of the offence of sexually harassing the woman officer after a year-long proceeding and ordered his dismissal from army service.
With that ended an illustrious career that was so promising that Lal, who was a National Defence College graduate, would have definitely gone on to be promoted as a Lieutenant General at least, getting to command a Corps. But that was not to be and the charge of molesting a woman officer was his undoing.
The Daily Mail’s investigations reveal that the latest such sex crime incident to hit the Indian Armed Forces is the charges by the wife of a Navy Marine Commando, a 26-year-old Lieutenant, that her husband had an extra-marital affair with the wife of his senior officer.
An IIT graduate who is currently preparing for the civil services examination, the woman also alleged that her husband forced her to have sex with his fellow officers. The officer is at present posted at the INS Venduruthy Naval base in Kochi. In the first week of April this year, the woman filed a police case in Kochi against her husband and his fellow officers and their spouses, apart from lodging a complaint with the Naval headquarters on her allegations in early March.
The 25-year-old woman’s allegations, which included wife-swapping, has come as a bolt from the deep blue sea for the Indian Navy, which organizes the Navy Queen beauty pageants for its officers’ better-halves within the Kochi Naval base during the Navy Ball, a coveted social event in the coastal city.
After Defence Minister A K Antony’s intervention in the matter and with the woman meeting him to raise the issue, the Navy wrote to him after an internal inquiry, noting that her allegations had no merit.
However, a couple of weeks back, the Navy began an in-depth probe into her allegations and asked her to depose before a board that is inquiring the matter. But the woman, citing her civil services exam, has refused to appear before the probe panel. The media glare on the woman’s allegations, which the Navy feels is wild, has hugely embarrassed the Indian Armed Forces.
“Yes, such cases being reported by the media do embarrass the Armed Forces. The reaction, however, seems to be disproportionate to the number of cases that happen in the Armed Forces,” says Brigadier (r) S K Chatterji of the Indian Army.
The law and punishment are the same whether sex crime is committed by an officer or a soldier. The only difference is the manner in which such cases are handled. While a soldier is summarily Court-Martialed by his commanding officer, a Commissioned Officer faces a General Court Martial that is convened to try him. If not, there is always the provision of an administrative action that can be invoked under the existing laws to punish a soldier or an officer. Yet, at no point is a sexual crime hushed up, say officers. “If such cases are ignored, it could lead to serious disciplinary issues, apart from causing internal acrimony. That will only mean a command and control breakdown, which could mean a certain defeat in war. The forces need to focus on fighting the enemy than among themselves,” a serving Lieutenant General notes.
“I would say that such cases (of sex crimes) are not uncommon (in the armed forces). But the number of cases is not that alarming,” opines former Indian Army’s Judge Advocate General (JAG) Major General Neelendra Kumar.
However, this case of sexual misconduct, which is still under a police probe and is yet to be established, is just one among the 30-odd cases of sexual misconduct of officers from the Indian Army, Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force that have been reported since 2004.
Agreeing with Kumar that such cases were not uncommon, another Judge Advocate General Branch officer Colonel (retired) S K Aggarwal says he was aware of at least three cases of sex crimes against Army officers that are at present being tried by courts martial in the country.
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that at the time when General Shankar Roy Choudhury was India’s Army Chief from November 1994 to September 1997, at least seven senior officers in the rank of Brigadier and above were sacked or their sacking orders confirmed for the offence of “stealing the affection of a brother officer’s wife” or adultery or extra-marital affair in the civil society’s terminology.
One of them was Brigadier M S Oberoi, who approached the Karnataka High Court, aggrieved by the Indian Army’s decision to compulsorily retire him in 1991 after a probe held him guilty of having an affair with a Lieutenant Colonel’s wife. Though the high court accepted Oberoi’s petition challenging his compulsory retirement in 1994, the decision was overturned by the Supreme Court and the punishment meted out to him was upheld.
Indian Army officers say, at present, they have a case on hand in which an Army infantry Unit’s commanding officer, posted in (Occupied) Jammu and Kashmir, has been accused of having an affair with the wife of his 2nd-in-Command. There was also another case in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh, where an officer got involved with another serving officer’s wife and has now ditched his own wife, who is an army doctor. The estranged couple has a child.
The Daily Mail’s probe reveals that in another case in the 13 Sikh Light Infantry Unit, a Colonel was charged with sexually harassing another officer’s wife. The accused officer is now attached to a Unit in Ferozepur for the last two-and-a-half years, but no progress has been made in that case. According to officers, who did not wish to be named as they are not authorized to speak to the media, there were a number of Lieutenant General-rank officers and their equivalents in the Navy and the Air Force, who have had extra-marital affairs with their fellow officer’s wives. “Yet, all of these incidents took place over a period of a couple of decades. The instances are definitely few and far between. Such cases are rare,” says a serving Major General, of the Indian Army who did not wish to be identified.
The Daily Mail’s findings indicate that in March 2011, in a rare instance when Indian Defense Minister got to reply to questions from Members of Parliament on sexual offences in the Indian Armed Forces, he noted that between 2008 and 2010, seven officers were punished after probes into eight cases of sexual harassment of women officers. “All Commands have been directed by the Army Headquarters that cases of sexual harassment will be viewed very seriously. “All Indian Naval personnel are sensitized regularly on this issue at various levels and various sensitisation capsules and workshops on the subject have been introduced in the Indian Air Force,” adds Kumar. He further informs that the Army issued comprehensive instructions on the definition of physical harassment and the procedure for taking action against defaulters.
Our investigations reveal that in August 2010, a military court struck off six years of military service of a serving Colonel who molested a woman officer during their posting in (Occupied) Jammu and Kashmir in 2008. The General Court Martial, which had assembled in Udhampur, the seat of the Indian Army’s Northern Command, directed that Colonel Anurodh Mishra would forfeit six years of his service when considering him for further promotion. That meant the Colonel will suffer the ignominy of being junior in rank and service to all officers who joined later than him in the six years preceding his commission in the Army. The five-member Court Martial, headed by Brigadier Arvind Datta, reprimanded him after hearing arguments from the complainant, Major Megha Gupta, and the defendant, an officer with the Electronics and Mechanical Engineering (EME) Corps. According to the charges read out against Col. Mishra, he had called the woman officer to his residence on the pretext of official briefings and misbehaved with her, when the two were posted with the 39 Mountain Division in IOK. Earlier, a Court of Inquiry had held that Mishra was prima facie guilty of molesting the woman officer. However, he approached the Armed Forces Tribunal contending that a false case was made out against him due to personal enmity at the instance of his senior Lieutenant Colonel. The tribunal, however, refused to interfere in the Court Martial proceedings.
The Daily Mail’s probe indicates that earlier this month, a Lieutenant Commander was dismissed from the Indian Navy on the orders of Defense Minister Antony after a probe found him guilty of having an affair with his senior’s wife. Without identifying the officer, Defense Ministry officials said the dismissal was recommended by the Navy headquarters after a probe that held him guilty of “stealing the affection of a fellow officer’s wife”, an offence under the naval service laws and rules. They, however, did not share further details about the officer or the case.
In another low for the Indian Armed Forces, a Commander of the Indian Navy, who was serving on India’s lone aircraft carrier INS Viraat, was dismissed from service, again earlier this month, after he was found guilty of sending lewd text messages to several women. According to the Indian Navy officials, the officer was dismissed by a General Court Martial (GCM) in Mumbai. The name of the officer in the rank of Commander (equivalent to Lieutenant Colonel in the Army) was recommended for dismissal by a Court Martial in January. He was later dismissed from service, says Indian Navy spokesperson Commander P V S Satish. He adds that the officer was dismissed on the charges of “conduct unbecoming of an officer”, as he was using multiple numbers to send lewd text messages to several women, both inside and outside the Force.
Our investigations reveal that in 2011, Defense Minister Antony had ordered the dismissal of a Navy Commodore, an officer equivalent to the Army’s Brigadier, on charges of sexual misconduct for having an illicit relation with a local woman while on a posting to Russia to oversee the repair and refit of a major warship India had bought from the Russian Navy. Commodore Sukhjinder Singh was ousted from service after a probe found him guilty. His affair with the Russian woman came out in the open after a photograph of the two in a private moment became public and got published in newspapers.
It was established then that the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier’s price, which was fixed originally at $974 million in 2004, was hiked to $2.34 billion in 2010 after Sukhjinder got compromised due to his illicit relationship.
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that during June 2003, the wife of a Colonel of the Indian Army complained to the then Army Chief General V K Singh’s wife Bharti Singh, President of Army Wives Welfare Association, that Army’s Engineer-in-Chief Lieutenant General A K Nanda had sexually misbehaved with her when she was accompanying her husband on an official tour of Israel. Nanda was also there in Tel Aviv along with his wife then and the complaining woman was none other than Nanda’s Technical Secretary C P S Pasricha’s wife. She had complained that Nanda visited her hotel room when her husband was away on the pretext of gathering an official file and took advantage of her being alone to molest her. The complaint was made after the entire team of officers completed its official tour of Israel, and later holidayed in Cyprus.
A Court of Inquiry that went into the allegations punished Nanda with just an administrative reprimand for violating service decorum. The Army, however, did not specify which service decorum Nanda violated. The Court of Inquiry, though, also pulled up Pasricha for misleading it and administered reproof to him too.
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that real life story of an Indian Army Major goes like a spicy and juicy script of some love thriller Indian movie.
According to the Daily Mail’s probe, a Major from Indian Army’s AMC , who was posted at a military hospital in Dinjan cantonment in Assam’s Tinsukia district in 2007, played out his part to perfection, only his efforts went for a toss at the end of the year-long drama. The officer, to fulfill his lust for a brother officer’s wife, planned and executed his own fake suicide. He left his car on the banks of Brahmaputra River and a suicide note in it, to make it appear as if he had jumped into the water to end his unhappy life. However, his body was never found despite the Indian Army getting divers to fish out the mortal remains. It also never surfaced. Around the same time, the wife of a Colonel with an Artillery Unit posted in the same area too went missing from her home in the Cantonment. Incidentally, the Major’s wife, who too is a doctor in the Indian Army’s Medical Corps with the rank of Captain, was on a UN mission and was posted abroad at the time he got involved with the Artillery Unit Colonel’s wife.
The Military Intelligence (MI) Unit’s antenna went up as two persons, a man and a woman, went missing from the same Army establishment almost at the same time. They began picking up the thread to put the pieces of the puzzle in place. The probe by the MI led to the finding that the Major had faked his suicide to elope with the Colonel’s wife. The Major was finally traced to a city in south India and was arrested. He was Court-Martialed on charges of “desertion” and “stealing the affection of a brother officer’s wife” and cashiered from service in 2008.
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that most probably, the first-ever case of dismissal of a woman officer was that of Squadron Leader Anjali Gupta of the Indian Air Force (IAF) in 2004-05. Gupta had accused three colleagues—Squadron Leader R S Choudhary, Wing Commander V C Cyriac and Air Vice-Marshal Anil Chopra, of sexual harassment. However, a manipulated and maneuvered Court of Inquiry, headed by the then Director General Medical Services, Air Marshal Padma Bandopadhyay, dismissed the charges against the officers. Gupta was charged with insubordination, indiscipline and financial irregularities. She was court-martialed in Bangalore and ordered to be cashiered from service in 2005. After facing such an acute denial of Justice and an intensive disgrace, Squadron Leader Anjali Gupta committed suicide in September 2011.
The Investigations also reveal that in July 2008, Captain Poonam Kaur of the Indian Army, who was then posted with the 5682 Army Service Corps (ASC) battalion in Kalka, was dismissed from service after she dared to highlight her sexual abuse by her seniors, in fact by three senior officers—Colonel R K Sharma, Lieutenant Colonel Ajay Chawla and Major Suraj Bhan. As always, once again, a rather manipulated Court of Inquiry found no basis for her complaint. Kaur was Court-Martialed in Patiala on 21 charges. She was found guilty of leveling false allegations against her seniors, disobeying orders of her Commanding Officer, providing false information to get accommodation meant for the married and discussing her service matters with the media.
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that the services of the Indian Armed Forces, with the third largest contingent in United Nations however, got blemished after reports of sexual misconduct emerged from Congo, where the Indian Army has been deployed since 2005 and is now the largest troop-contributing force. In December 2008, complaints emerged that Indian peacekeepers were sexually exploiting local Congolese women and reports in this regard were received by the United Nation’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS). After a four-year probe by both the OIOS and the Indian Army headquarters in New Delhi, it turned out that at least one of the complaints could be true, thereby bringing disrepute to Indian peacekeepers. A Court of Inquiry concluded by the Indian Army in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, found enough ground for disciplinary action against a soldier from an Indian Army regiment, whose DNA matched with that of a child born to a Congolese woman. Three other army personnel, including a major, were charged with control and command failure. They were punished with administrative action. When complaints emerged in 2008, an entire battalion of the Indian Army’s Sikh regiment came under the OIOS scanner, following the startling revelations about sexual misconduct by men from that Unit by four Congolese women. The complaints gained credence after children with distinct Indian features were born to these women. One of them had claimed that she used to meet up with the Indian Army man at a Goma hotel in North Kivu. She also claimed that she was from a poor family and the Indian Army man would give her gifts and money.
The Daily Mail’s probe reveals that in yet another UN-related case in 2008 again involving troops from the Congo mission, three Indian Army officers were arrested by the South African police in Pretoria after women residents of Plettenberg Bay complained that the Indian Army Officers raped them. The officers were on a holiday in South Africa from their duties at the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo headquarters in Kinshasa when the crime took place. The officers were picked up by the police from a bed-and-breakfast facility in Mossel Bay in March 2008.
The Daily Mail’s investigations highlight that in what came as a major embarrassment for the Indian Army, a Lieutenant Colonel, who had gone to Dhaka in Bangladesh to attend a training course in one of their military academies, fell prey to a honey-trap cleanly laid out by a woman spy of a rival country.
The officer, from an infantry unit, faced a Court of Inquiry, which ascertained if he passed on any sensitive information on the Indian Army’s deployments and plans when he was under the spell of the female foreign spy. The officer had been in Bangladesh in 2011 summer for just about a couple of months when he developed an intimate relationship with the woman, who was acting at the behest of a third country’s spy agency. He had met her at a social gathering in Dhaka. However, after he got compromised, the woman spy began arm-twisting him into giving away Indian military secrets. Soon after, India’s R&AW came into the picture; the officer was immediately packed off to India sometime between September and October that year. On his return to India, Indian Army counter-intelligence experts interrogated him. After the debriefing, a court of inquiry went into his role in the episode and he was later punished.
For all crimes that are sexual in nature, the Indian Army Act, 1950 has provisions that are stringent. Similar laws apply in the case of the Navy and the Air Force too.
Section 45 (Unbecoming conduct): Any officer, junior commissioned officer or warrant officer who behaves in a manner unbecoming his position and the character expected of him shall, on conviction by court martial, be liable to be cashiered, be dismissed or to suffer such less punishment as is in the Act mentioned.
Section 46 (Certain forms of disgraceful conduct): Any person subject to the Act who is guilty of any disgraceful conduct of a cruel, indecent or unnatural kind; or maligns, or feigns, or produces disease or infirmity in himself, or intentionally delays his cure or aggravates his disease or infirmity; or with intent to render himself or any other person unfit for service, voluntarily causes hurt to himself or that person, shall, on conviction by court martial, be liable to suffer imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years.
Section 63 (Violation of good order and discipline): Any person subject to the Act who is guilty of any act or omission which is prejudicial to good order and military discipline shall, on conviction by court martial, be liable to suffer imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years.
Section 65 (Attempt): Any person who attempts to commit any of the offences specified in Sections 34 to 64 and in such attempt does any act towards the commission of the offence, shall, on conviction by court martial, if the offence attempted to be committed is punishable with death, to suffer imprisonment for a term which may extend to 14 years. If the offence attempted to be committed is punishable with imprisonment, to suffer imprisonment for a term, which may extend to one-half of the longest term provided for that offence.
The Defense analysts and observers in the region as well as around the globe are reported to be highly perturbed with this constantly increasing syndrome in the Indian Armed Forces. They believe that with such a past record and with such a present status too, the Indian armed Forces do not fall in the category of the highly unreliable and untrustworthy Forces. They say that with this scenario, only a fool can think trusting the Indian Armed Forces for replacing ISAF and NATO troops in Afghanistan as with this background, Indian military personnel appear to be quite capable of creating a new state of war in Afghanistan while the acute low morality of the Indian officers and soldiers make them highly unreliable for any mature job or sensitive task..