Gurdaspur — Four officers, including the commanding officer of a battalion of the Madras Regiment, are among a number of Army personnel facing disciplinary action for taking away civilian goods during the Army operation in Amritsar in June last.

The persons involved, who were indicted by a court of inquiry conducted by a Lt. Col. a few months ago, are being chargesheeted. The recording of summary of evidence, which is the next stage, will be done at Tibri Cantonment near here, it is learnt. Only then will it be known if they will be tried by a general court martial.

While two majors are directly involved (some goods were recovered from them), the commanding officer and one major are facing action for allowing the lifting of articles and not informing higher authorities.

It all started with an anonymous letter to the then General Officer Commanding (GOC) of a division at Amritsar, Major General J. S. Jamwal, soon after the operation. The letter had given definite information about the articles with each person. The GOC asked the concerned brigade commander to conduct a search and also inquire into the allegation.

When the brigade commander asked the CO of the battalion he denied any knowledge of lifting of articles by his men. Later, the brigade commander lined up the entire battalion and gave them 15 minutes to own up and surrender what ever they had lifted. Among the persons who voluntarily surrendered the articles was a major who gave a revolver and 10 live cartridges. Later, about one tonload of household articles and general merchandise was found abandoned in bushes behind the unit line. The quarter guard of the unit was also checked at Amritsar, but nothing was found there.

The house of the then officiating secondincommand (2IC) of the battalion was searched at Jalandhar but nothing was found. However, the orderly of the officer, during interrogation, revealed that some goods had been placed in the house of a neighbor, a major, who was on leave. A Lt. Col. conducted a search of the house of the neighbor and recovered a VCR, a color television

set, and two music systems, allegedly kept by the officating 2IC. Search parties were also sent to Lucknow and some parts of Kerala, where some personnel or their families had gone on leave.

The commanding officer, who initially stated that he knew nothing later said that he had issued instructions to the officers and jawans not to pick up anything. He said that he later relented when his men said that they were taking away the articles as souvenirs. He said that the articles were also taken out because they would have been destroyed in the fire which had engulfed the buildings. Most of the articles were taken away from Guru Ram Das sarai and the nearby buildings. The CO also said that he was under great stress during those days because two of his officers had been killed and one seriously injured, besides the loss of a number of jawans in the operation. The officers and men who were indicted said that the articles picked up were not for their personal use but for the unit.

The inquiry officer stated that since a number of personnel of the unit were involved, it was difficult to pinpoint responsibility correctly. However, attached with the inquiry report are separate lists of articles voluntarily surrendered, articles recovered from the personal belongings and. goods found in the bushes.

The officers are facing action for violation of good order and military discipline and also retaining civilian goods in their custody illegally.


Article extracted from this publication >>  April 5, 1985