Sukna case: Rath challenges revision order

Shillong: Facing charges in Sukna land scam, Lt Gen P K Rath on Monday challenged revision of findings of general court martial, alleging the authorities were forcing the court to take a decision in the manner they like.

Rath`s counsel Major SS Pandey told GCM which reassembled here to review the charges against Rath, said, "The tone, tenor and manner of the revision order suggests it has not only asked for re-appreciation of the evidence which the court has already appreciated and come to a conclusion, but also that it has been forced to take a decision in the manner as suggested by the authority."

"It is an attempt to divest the court of its discretion and a clear case of command influence," he stated.

Challenging the revision order, counsel for Rath asserted that the appreciation of evidence is the sole discretion of the court as the "revision order itself says".

Alleging the revision order was based on "surmises and conjectures and not legally tenable", the advocate said, "Just because you have the power of revision, that does not mean you will exercise it even when no justified reason is available."

Pandey claimed he would bring out the "infirmity" in the revision order in a written address before the GCM tomorrow.

In his response, prosecution counsel Raghavendra Jha justified the revision order, saying it was based on evidence on record and the detailed observation made by the confirming authority.

Pointing out that the revision order cannot be said to be a fetter on the exercise of power of the court, Jha said the order was just an application for review issued under the provisions of the Army Act.

The GCM had on January 22 last awarded a sentence of two-year loss of seniority and 15-year pension loss to Lt Gen P K Rath in Sukna land scam after he was found guilty on three counts.

The Eastern Army Commander, the convening authority in the 2008 land scam, has directed the GCM to reconvene asking it to reconsider the first charge ? intend to defraud ? of which Rath was acquitted.

"The court while appreciating the evidence on record did not accord due weightage and consideration to certain aspects…Finding of "not guilty" with reference to the first charge (intent to defraud) appears to be perverse," the revision order from Eastern Command GOC-in-C Lt Gen Bikram Singh, which was read out by GCM presiding officer Lt Gen IJ Singh today, said.

Rath, former Deputy Chief of Army Staff-designate, was found guilty of conveying NoC in the capacity of 33 Corps Commander to a private realtor for constructing educational institutions on a piece of land adjacent to the Sukna military station in West Bengal.

The other two charges for which he was found guilty are signing of an MoU with Geetanjali Trust for construction of the educational institute and for not informing his superiors in the Eastern Command about the proposed agreement.

Rath had been designated Deputy Chief of Army Staff but when the scandal came to light in 2008, his appointment was cancelled and since then he has been attached to different Army formations for disciplinary proceedings.

Court martial proceedings against the then Military Secretary Lt Gen Avadesh Prakash in the case is going on in Guwahati.