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Armed Forces Tribunal Sets Aside ‘censure’ Awarded to Colonel Over Indian and Tajik Cadets’ Clash at IMA

The clashes between the Indian and Tajik cadets were reported in February-March 2021 at the Indian Military Academy.

The Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has set aside the punishment of ‘censure’ awarded to the Battalion Commander of a training battalion at the Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehradun, after a clash between Indian cadets and those from Tajikistan.

Colonel S K Singh, the then Battalion Commander of the Cariappa Battalion, had been awarded ‘censure’ for certain lapses which led to the clashes between the Indian and Tajik cadets in which many cadets were injured in February-March 2021.

In its judgement dated November 7, the AFT Bench of Justice Rajendra Menon and Lieutenant General P M Hariz also noted that Indian military training institutions have cadets and trainees from various friendly foreign countries coming in for training. HQ Army Training Command (ARTRAC), which is responsible for institutionalised training, including Pre-Commission Training, has to draw up a common code of conduct which will be uniformly applicable to all overseas trainees in the institutions, the bench said.

Disagreeing with the findings of the Court of Inquiry held into the incident of the clash and the subsequent show cause notice issued to the Battalion Commander for dereliction of duty involving lack of effective command and control and inept handling of the cadets as well as the situation, the AFT bench set aside the censure awarded to him.

“… We conclude that while we do not condone the unfortunate incident in our premier training establishments, and while we concur with the Respondents that the officers have a moral responsibility to such incidents, given that censure is operative for 10 long years, we are of the opinion that this is harsh considering the peculiar circumstances of the case,” says the bench in its order.

“The fact that based on this censure, the applicant has already had to forego the opportunity to do a foreign Higher Commander Course (HCC), and the fact that he was prematurely posted out of IMA to an obscure appointment, we are of the opinion that the applicant has already been adequately punished and that the incident will serve as a reminder of his responsibilities as an officer. Therefore, the applicant cannot be entirely held responsible for some of the grounds mentioned in the SCN,” it says.

Accordingly, the bench set aside the Censure Order of the GOC-in-C Central Command dated July 9, 2021, and directed that all references to the censure be removed from the dossier and other records of the petitioner.

The AFT found the Tajik cadets were also aggrieved by the address of the Commandant, Lt Gen Harinder Singh, made to them after the initial clash as they felt that they were being blamed for the incident.

The Battalion Commander had also been accused of wrongly reporting to the Court of Inquiry that iron rods, wooden planks, sticks and stones were used by Tajikistan Cadets on March 3, 2021, to assault Indian cadets, though it had not been corroborated by any eye witness or evidence.

The AFT bench noted, “What is relevant is that considering all the grievous injuries sustained by the Indian Gentlemen Cadets (GCs), there is certainly a major element of doubt whether these injuries were caused by a mere fist fight, or whether other implements had been used to cause these injuries even if the witnesses, for some reason did not explicitly mention it, or merely because no material evidence was produced before the Court of Inquiry (Col). In our opinion, sadly, the Col did not vigorously pursue and examine the circumstances and causes of all the grievous injuries”.

On February 24, 2021, Suhrobi of Tajikistan punched an Indian cadet. After this, on March 2, the Indian cadet along with his friends went to resolve the issue with Suhrobi which culminated in a scuffle between the Tajik and the Indian cadets.

On March 2, Tajikistan cadets from other battalions instigated Suhrobi to report the incident to the Defence Attache (DA), Tajikistan posted in Delhi. However, he did not report the matter to the authorities at IMA.

On March 3 evening, the then Commandant IMA, Lt Gen Harinder Singh, interacted with all foreign cadets of the Academy and addressed them. Though the talk was in English, it was translated into Pashto by the Afghan Liaison Officer posted at IMA.

However, soon after Lt Gen Singh’s address, 21 cadets from Tajikistan, of which three were from the Cariappa Battalion, attacked Senior Under Officer (SUO) Dinesh of Hajipir Company and other Indian cadets who were involved in the previous scuffle causing grievous injuries to eight Indian cadets.

Source: Indian Express