The Army Procedure
An accused person in the army has enough safeguard against any type of exploitation, provided these are adhered to.
Any person subject to the Army Act, who is charged with an offence, may be taken into military custody. Any such person may be ordered into military custody by any superior officer.
It is the duty of every commanding officer to take care of that person under his command when charged with an offence and he is not detained in custody for more than forty-eight hours after the commital of such a person into custody is reported to him, without the charge being investigated, unless investigation within that period seems to him to be impracticable.
The case of any person being detained in custody beyond the period of forty eight hours, and the reason thereof, must be reported by the Commanding Officer to the General or any other officer to whom an application would be made to convene a general or district court martial for the trial of the person charged.
In case of an officer, custody means "arrest". It may be either close or open. And if the circumstances require it the officer may be placed under the charge of a guard, piquet, patrol, sentry or a provost marshal.
An officer in close arrest is placed in charge of an escort consisting of another, if possible, senior officer or of the same rank. He must not leave his quarter or tent except to take such exercises under supervision, as the medical officer thinks necessary.
An officer who is placed under arrest should always be informed in writing of the nature of the arrest which will be governed by the circumstances of the case and any chance in the nature of the arrest should be notified in writing to him.
As a rule, a CO will not place an officer under arrest without investigation of the complaint or the circumstances tending to incriminate him. The CO will always place an officer under arrest against whom he decides to prefer a charge and it is his duty to report each case of arrest without unnecessary delay to the proper superior authority.
An officer is placed under arrest either directly by the officer who orders it or by some subordinate carrying out his orders. That is by the Adjutant of the unit when the arrest is ordered by a superior officer of commander. The order may be verbal or written, the latter as being more formal, being the preferable method, except where the offence is committed actually in the presence of the CO or the superior officer.
The charge against every person taken into military custody must be investigated without unnecessary delay. The CO is responsible to ensure that the investigations are begun within forty eight hours of the committal of the person. Every case of a person being detained in custody beyond 48 hours and the reasons for the delay in disposing of the case must be reported to a superior authority.
The manner in which the investigation of charges by a subordinate commander or CO is to be carried is, regulated by Army Rules (AR) 22 to 25. His duty requires deliberation and the exercise of temper and judgement, in the interest alike of discipline and of justice to the accused. And the investigations must be conducted in the presence of the accused.
After the nature of the offence charged has been made known to the accused, the witnesses present on the spot who depose to the facts on which the charge is based, are examined. The accused must have full liberty of cross examination. The CO after hearing what is stated against the accused, will, if he is of the opinion that no offence at all, or no offence requiring notice has been made out, at once dismiss the case. Otherwise, he must ask the accused what he is to say in his defence and whether he has any witnesses to call, and will give him full opportunity both of making a statement and of supporting it by evidence. The CO will then consider whether to dismiss the case, or to deal with it himself or proceed with the case by reducing the evidence in writing.
The CO may record the S of E himself, or he may direct another officer to do so. But the S of E will always be recorded in the presence of the accused.
During the investigation, the officer conducting it, must be careful not to let fall, before the disposes of the case, any expression or opinion as to the guilt of the accused, or one which might prejudice him at a subsequent trial. It may happen that officers who have been present at the investigation are detailed as members of the court convened in consequence of it. Therefore nothing should be said or done which might, though unconsciously, bias their judgement before hand.
The charge sheet must be signed by the CO of the accused. It contains the place and date of such signatures.
The accused is given full opportunity to obtain legal advice at any time after his arrest.
Were these safeguards given to me? Was my case investigated as per the rules? The Army Act (AA) or the AR or even the Defence Services Regulation do not say anything of "interrogation" of an accused by any one. The conduct of the investigations can be done by the commanding officer alone and none else except by a subordinate officer whom the CO might direct. No one else is entitled to carry out such investigations, not the interrogators; not even the DMI. The DMI, at the most could feed information or lay down guidelines on which the CO may conduct the investigations.
Under what authority was then I interrogated for such a prolonged period and detained in the secret interrogation centre? Was a complaint made to my CO Lieut Colonel K.M. Nanda? Why was I not arrested in Kamptee if there was sufficient evidence to incriminate me, instead of calling me dubiously to Delhi as I was, and there also, I was put under close arrest by the Commandant Raj Rif Centre, Colonel Harbhajan Singh, instead of by Colonel Grewal, the superior officer? Why was I not given the reasons for my arrest even when I had asked for them? There was no charge sheet given to me either, so how could I be arrested? The delay report initiated by the Commandant said the nature of offence was not known. That meant that I and subsequently Captain Rana were arrested by the Commandant without any charge against us since I did not know what offence was committed. Why? Who knew it then? The DDMI(b) Colonel Grewal? Then why did he not arrest the officers himself?
Not only that, I was arrested by Colonel Harbhajan Singh, interrogated by the "Trimurty" under Colonel Grewal, and then shifted to Nagrota and placed under yet another commanding officer for the recording of S of E. There too every safeguard given to an accused under the AA, was ruthlessly violated. Why?
Why did my new CO not investigate the case as per the provisions of law and why did he not record the S of E himself?
Major Satpati was officer commanding Defence and Employment Company of the Hqs 16 Corps. Then under what authority was he detailed to record the S of E?. Who directed Major Satpati to do so? The CO? But the CO could not direct Major Satpati, an officer commanding a different unit. There was no provision under which Satpati could record my S of E because he belonged to a different unit. Who was behind that sort of unconstitutional jugglery in the army of a constitutionally democratic nation; India? It was surely someone among the higher echelon of the army. But who was he?
These were some of the questions which remained unanswered.
Let alone the procedures, I had signed my statement at the S of E without its contents being made known to me. Till of course I was handed over a copy of the S of E just a couple of days before the start of my trial.
Back in the cell, I could not sleep the whole night. My mind went wild with thoughts. I considered the idea of reporting the matter of my CO in protest. But unable to analyse the CO's attitude, I realised the futility of such an attempt. Without the CO's assent, my statement could not have been signed. This made me lose complete faith in my CO.
I was in any case, to be loser. My fate was as usual contriving against me.
I had not heard from my wife for over a month. I tried to distract my mind but could not help imagining for plight of my family, while living in dread in total solitary confinement to which I was subjected. I was physically broken and mentally unbalanced. But, there was nothing for me to do except to bear the excruciating pain of such sufferings. Spiritually too, I was in absolute darkness.
It was 03 January '79. Captain Ranvir, the independent witness, entered the cell. The officer told me that he had been deputed to look after, any problem I had.
`Rathaur, there are two letters for you from your wife. But the letters at the moment are with your CO for censor,' The officer told me and then producing a letter from the Corps Hqs asked, `kindly sign the receipt.'
I was too happy to think about anything except the news of my wife's letters, so I quickly signed the receipt. After the receipt was obtained the officer confided in me.
`You will not get these letters. They will never be given to you. I advise you Rathaur, not to sign on any receipt in future, till you have actually received the things. I really sympathise with you but I am helpless. Tell me why are these people after you? I am sorry for the way they're treating you. Also the way you were forced to sign the other night....'
I kept staring at the officer.
`I will tell you, but for God sake don't quote me, it all was done on the express directions from the Corps Commander; Lieut General Chandorkar.... He was mighty wild when he was told that you'd refused to make a statement. And Rathaur sorry to tell you..... if you'd not signed that night, then they would surely have carried out the threats.... Tell me why are they doing this to you...?'
Hearing words of sympathy, I broke down, Then I told the officer, briefly about the case and the tortures I had undergone. `I can tell you, sir, people have committed unimaginable and unspeakable atrocities on me and there appears to be no end to this sickening sad drama. Seemingly everyone appears to have become obsessed with the idea of unearthing spies, without caring to know the truth... I can say one thing... when the truth will surface, then they will live only to repent, and repent for the rest of their lives.... If you can then, do tell them not to feel happy by obtaining tortured and false confessions from innocents. I know they think they have donned diamond necklesses of the spies, but what they don't know that each diamond is a deadly cobra and each cobra will bite them, with its deadly fangs. And even if they are able to escape from these cobras, they, still will not be able to escape from the SHESH NAG. (As per Hindu mythology, a serpent with a thousand heads). And that is me.'
Captain Ranvir looked embarrassed. He said, `Well you know, I do understand your position and infact I sympathise with you. But sorry brother, I can't help you. I hope you understand my predicament... And don't worry about your wife. I've read the letters, she is fine. Presently she is in Delhi, staying with one of your relatives. Okay?... If you need anything, do let me know.'
`Well, sir, I shall be grateful, if you could kindly replace the blankets. And, I had asked the CO to give me some reading material, if you can look into that.... Also, I went to write to my wife. Therefore, I request you to kindly get me an envelope alongwith a pen and a sheet of paper.'
`Okay. I'll see to that, but kindly don't take it as assurance', Saying this and wishing me good luck Captain Ranvir left.
True to his words Captain Ranvir managed some how to send two blankets and one inland forces letter, though much later I learnt that the letter was never posted.
I analysed the whole situation in the light of fresh revelation made by Captain Ranvir. The attitude of my CO and the atrocious treatment being given to me, by side stepping the provisions of the AA and the general law of the land, became clear. After all a Lieut. Colonel and others are ancillary to the bigger command structure. A Corps Commander, who is a Lieut. General is no small authority. He is beyond the comprehension of the present day commanding officers of the Indian army. They would (not all but most of them) do anything including licking the arse of the big boss, the Corps Commander. And if the Corps Commander desired that the statement must be obtained with signatures from me, then it must be got. If I refused to sign, I definitely faced extinction. Anything could be done to please the Corps Commander. The threat could still be carried out, no one would question why I was killed. (It was, as it will be seen, no question was ever raised at the death of Havildar Ram Sarup), because any act of the Generals in the Indian army is always for the security and interest of the nation! Then who is there, and why should anyone question such patriotic acts in our democracy!!
I wisely put off the idea of reporting.
One day KSS came to me and surprisingly asked affectionately, `So Rathaur, what should we do with this driver?' The driver he meant was Sepoy Karam Singh.
`What do you mean, sir?, I questioned in reply.
`You know we're starting off with the trial of your driver Karam Singh, very soon. So what should we do about that?'
`Well, sir, if you've included me when you said "we" then kindly count me out. If there's anything required to be done, then it's you who will have to do it, not me.'
I was under a morbid fear of KSS, still I felt overjoyed to learn about Karam Singh's trial. I had chalked out my plan of action in a split second. But I did not aloow the happiness to show on my face while replying.
`Count you out?..... What do you mean by counting you out? Dammit you've already pleaded guilty, so where is the question of counting you out?'
I chuckled, without showing any sign of contempt on my face, over the way I was being pressurised. One doesn't plead guilty at the S of E. At the most it can be termed as a statement, which may be taken in evidence against the accused. Pleading quilty or not guilty is done only at the court martial.
However, I did not say anything. I was afraid of being put to some other tests, a number of which I had already undergone. The memories were too vivid to forget.
I said, `Even though I've pleaded guilty, as you say, sir, the fact, which is known to you also, is that I am innocent. But anyway it doesn't matter what happens to me, I am not prepared to play with the lives of other innocent people and put them to untold sufferings; since I have undergone them, I know what the pain is like.'
KSS continued coming to me for 3 to 4 days. Every day he tried to lure me into becoming an approver. He would try to put across the advantages that would accure on becoming an approver. Then KSS would lure me by saying that Havildar Raghubir Singh and Captain Rana had already turned approvers and were enjoying every facility given to them. But I did not give in. I held the ground even at the face of renewed threats of sending me back to the interrogation centre. I announced, if I was taken to court I would only tell the truth.
`You will never get the opportunity to speak in the court against the prosecution. Because if you say a word against us, you will be declared a hostile witness, and bear this in mind, what'll happen to you after the court?'
Whatever may happen after the court, but I was sure they cannot afford to give me any physical torture. It was however a different thing if I could still be killed. So I counted and depended upon this fact that I would have to be taken to the court.
The injuries though healed, were present on my body and were sufficient to cause a major stirup. For that I had to reach the court. If I am able to manage till then somehow, then I think I have achieved my aim. I thought. And in court, I did reach.
On 8 January '79, I was told to get ready. Although the bitter cold winter of North India was at its peak, I had only my summer clothes to put on.
`Where am I being taken?' I asked the escort officer Captain Murty.
`I don't know,' replied the escort officer indifferently. But I had gussed correctly. I was blindfolded, handcuffed and driven to the place where Karam Singh was being tried.
Outside the court room, my handcuffs and blindfold were removed and I was marched in. It took all the strength out of me to control my emotions which stirred up, seeing the members of the court martial after a long period of torture and solitary confinement. While taking the oath, I stole a glance at the accused and felt a deep compassion for him. I was responsible in reducing Karam Singh and a number of others to a confirmed state of miseries. Was I ? In any case the time had come and I could pay everyone for their sufferings, I thought. But fate was against me for a long time to come.
|Preface | Temporary Duty | The Move Order | The Train Journey | The Reception | The Army HQ | Close Arrest | The Interrogation | Background | The Intelligence | The Security | The Devil | The Confession | The Foundation Stone | The Great Detectives | The Corroborations | An Approver | Confrontaions | Hibernations | Leading to the Trails | Fairy Tales | Into the Fire | Army Procedure | As a Winess | Meeting with Family | Habeas Corpus | Death of Democracy | The Trial | Prosecution Case | The Defence | The Press | Rebuttal | Aftermath | Mystery | Postscript | Annexure I | Home ||