NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today stayed the order of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) that had modified the order of the Chief of Naval Staff to sack a sailor for slapping his senior, that too while on duty.
The tribunal, though upholding the summary trial of the Navy that had held R Karthik "guilty", had also diluted the punishment of dismissal from service by awarding 75 days of detention. A bench of justices M Y Eqbal and Arun Mishra issued notice to Karthik on the plea of the Centre and stayed the AFT order after Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh sought an urgent intervention on the issue.
The Centre, in its plea, claimed that if the tribunal's order was not stayed, it would have a bad effect on the morale of the services. "The conduct of the respondent (Karthik) was such that it tends to shake up the confidence and trust that was reposed in him and the misconduct directly impinges upon the discipline and morale of the force on which the entire edifice of Navy is built," the government said. "The AFT having upheld the finding of 'guilty' could not have substituted the punishment of dismissal with detention for 75 days," it said.
Karthik, who was part of the Aviation Core team on board of INS Gharial that had sailed from Visakhapatnam to Brunei, was awarded punishment of detention for 60 days for slapping his superior officer on his face on May 29, 2013. He had pleaded guilty, and later his punishment was modified by the administrative authority, the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, and was dismissed from naval services.
The dismissal was upheld by the Chief of the Naval Staff. The AFT, however, altered the punishment and awarded detention for a period of 75 days, observing that sacking was not commensurate with the gravity of offence. It had held that the action on part of the officer to instigate Karthik by using explicit abusive language needed to be considered whilst mitigating the quantum of sentence.