NEW DELHI:Disappointed over the way higher Army authorities have been handling the sensitive issue of a sex abuse complaint by a young woman officer, the presiding officer of the probe committee has sent a strongly worded letter to the headquarters saying that the “reputation of the Army is not to be put at risk for an officer against whom prima facie case is established”.
Express on Sunday broke the story of an Army captain who was sexually harassed by her unit’s Commanding Officer. The 26-year-old woman officer of Signal Corps, posted at the Alwar military station in Rajasthan, had taken part in the Republic Day parade this year to showcase Nari Shakti (women’s power).
Though the original complaint was filed nearly two months ago in August, the committee on sexual harassment of women at the workplace met only earlier in October. A day after Express reported the matter, the Army Headquarters on Monday ordered a Court of Inquiry into the issue.
But according to the documents seen by this newspaper, the internal complaints committee was asked to stop its action, saying it did not have jurisdiction. In a letter dated October 9, Colonel H S Rajawat, senior staff officer of Alwar station, wrote to the presiding officer of the complaints committee saying, “Since 12 Field Sub Group (Alwar) is a southern command unit and not under the headquarters (Southwestern) for discipline purpose, this case is not in the purview of the committee constituted by this headquarters.” The accused was transferred out to Western Command and the woman officer who lodged the complaint was sent for a military exercise despite a request by her to retain her until the completion of the inquiry.
In response, the presiding officer, on Monday, wrote to the Alwar station and said the panel is trying to follow procedure specified by the law and the Adjutant General Branch’s instructions.
“However, station headquarters, Alwar is trying to direct the committee to submit all correspondence on the subject to them, which is in violation,” the presiding officer said in her letter to Army Headquarters.
The presiding officer also said, “It would be appropriate to mention here that officers of the Indian Army are governed by Army Act and law of the land, not by the commanding officer.”
She also said, “The undersigned again brings the attention to the gross violation of law that would happen in case of the inquiry committee is directed not to proceed with the case.”
Test of army Justice System
The legal team of women Army officers said in its statement, “Though already there have been major lapses in this case, we still would like to give the Army the ‘long rope’. This is the test of the Army justice system.”