Chief of the Army Staff General Deepak Kapoor, on Friday accepted the advice of Defence Minister A.K. Antony by ordering court martial proceedings against Military Secretary Lieutenant General Avadesh Prakash for his alleged involvement in a land scam in the Darjeeling area of West Bengal. He would be the first three-star general to face such action.
General Kapoor was overruled by Mr. Antony who felt the alleged misdemeanours of General Prakash were serious enough to merit a court martial and not just disciplinary proceedings preferred by the Army chief.
As Military Secretary, General Prakash is one of the closest aides to the Army chief in dealing with daily matters and policy planning. The general is due to retire in a couple of days.
General Prakash was indicted in an internal probe at the command level along with the then 33 Corps Commander Lieutenant General P.K. Rath, his Chief of Staff at that time, Lieutenant General Ramesh Halgali and then Brigadier Administration Major General P.C. Sen. Following a court of inquiry, Eastern Army Commander Lieutenant General V.K. Singh, who will be the next Army chief, had recommended termination of service of General Prakash and administrative action against the other officers.
The controversy arose after General Kapoor recommended court martial proceedings against Lieutenant General Rath and issued show-cause notice to others for administrative action. It was felt by many in the Army that General Kapoor was being unfair as all four officers should have been meted out the same punishment. Mr. Antony overruled the Army chief.
The officers were found culpable by an internal probe for overruling their predecessors and issuing a no objection certificate to a private developer to lease 71 acres of land next to the Sukna military station near Darjeeling. The developer was also found to have falsely represented that he would open an educational institution affiliated to the prestigious Mayo College, Ajmer.
The probe at the command level had allegedly indicted Lieutenant General Rath for inking a pact with the property developer provided a certain percentage of seats was reserved for children of armed forces personnel. Lieutenant General Prakash was seen as being too interested in the case and persuading his juniors to pursue the deal.
Lieutenant General Halgali was alleged to have suppressed information from his seniors and Major General P.C. Sen was said to have played an active role in discussions with the developer during his tenure at the 33 Corps headquarters.