NEW DELHI: A 27-year old Army Captain, who led the first-ever women’s marching contingent at the Republic Day parade in which then US President Barack Obama was the chief guest in 2015, is being harassed for raising her voice against sexual advances by her commanding officer.
Justice has not been delivered to her even after two years, and her career in the Army is hanging in balance with no hope of promotion.
The Army Captain, who led the first-ever women’s marching contingent at the Republic Day parade in which then US President Barack Obama was the chief guest, is still waiting for the authorities to complete inquiry on her sexual harassment complaint so that she can go for a seven-month long higher course, required for promotion.
She has made several representations to the Army’s higher authorities to know the status of her case. All her appeals have gone unheard. The Court of Inquiry framed 14 charges of sexual advances against the accused Colonel in June 2017 after Summary of Evidence concluded.
“She stood up against all odds and trusted the Army to get justice and did not approach the court. But despite two years, her case is still pending. The higher authorities are not updating her on the case. Her career is uncertain,” said one of her family members.
Captain Poonam (name changed) joined the Army’s Signals Corps as a Technical Officer in 2013. In August 2015, she filed a sexual harassment complaint against the Commanding Officer of her unit while she was posted at the Alwar military station in Rajasthan. On joining her unit, the first question the officer asked her was if she had a boyfriend. He allegedly touched her private parts and made remarks like “when a lady officer salutes, people look at her breasts, and when they pass by, people look at their butts”.
After this newspaper broke the story in October 2015, Army Headquarters ordered a Court of Inquiry after sitting over her complaint for three months. The victim had written to then Army chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag, saying she approached him “bypassing all channels for redressal of my grievances because an earlier attempt through proper channel failed to provide justice”. In October 2015, her father wrote to then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar saying, “If this is the way the Indian Army treats its daughters, I’m not sure if any parent will ever send their daughters to the Army.”