Sukna land scam: Lt Gen Avadesh Prakash found guilty, dismissed from service

Sukna land scam: Lt Gen Avadesh Prakash found guilty, dismissed from service
New Delhi:  An Army court today found former Military Secretary Lieutenant General Avadesh Prakash guilty on three counts in the 2008 Sukna land scam case. Following the court verdict, Lt General Prakash was dismissed from service.

Yesterday, the Army completed court martial proceedings against him. The court martial was held at the 51 sub-area Army station in Narengi on the outskirts of Guwahati. General Prakash has been held guilty of misusing his position under the Army Act section 45 (conduct unbecoming of his position as an officer) and section 52 (intent to defraud).

The dismissal from service with retrospective effect would mean General Avadesh Prakash will lose his rank and will not get any benefits like pension, medical facilities and provident fund. A retired officer of the Indian Army can be court martialled for offences committed while in service up to three years from his or her superannuation. General Prakash retired from service Jan 31, 2010.

General Prakash is the senior-most Indian Army officer ever to face a court martial. In January this year, another senior officer, Lieutenant General P K Rath, was court-martialled in the same case. Both the officers were indicted by a court of inquiry last year.

The case dates back to 2008 and involves the transfer of land next to the Army's 33 Corps Headquarters in Siliguri, West Bengal, to a real-estate developer.

The Army inquiry had indicted Lt Gen Prakash for using his position to influence officers to transfer the 71-acre plot of Army land to the developer.

This is what the inquiry had brought out. In May 2008, the Army wrote to the West Bengal government, stating that it wanted to acquire this land. In October 2008, Lt Gen P K Rath took over as the 33 Corps Commander and reiterated the Army's decision to buy the land.

A few days later, Lt Gen Prakash visited Chumta tea estate during his official tour to 33 Corps, and referred businessman Dilip Agarwal, who wanted to buy the land, to Lt Gen Rath.  In March 2010, 33 Corps under Lt Gen Rath granted the land to Mr Agarwal with a no-objection certificate (NoC).

The Army's inquiry had said that Lt Gen Prakash should be sacked for he "became a facilitator in promoting Dilip Agarwal's business."

Being posted at the Headquarters, Lt Gen Prakash had no jurisdiction over Siliguri. The court of inquiry said that he took undue interest in the building project.

Lt Gen Rath had confessed to having taken the decision at Lt Gen Prakash's behest. It is alleged that Lt Gen Prakash, who was in-charge of promotions at the Headquarters, promised Lt Gen Rath a plum posting.

The court martial ordered a two-year seniority loss and 15 years of loss of service for pension for Lt Gen Rath, who has service till March 2012.

An Army court had found Lt Gen Rath guilty of issuing the NoC to the builder, signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and not informing the Command Headquarters about the decision.

The Army's internal report stated that his decision was "hasty and top-driven action."

It was Lt Gen Rath's chief of staff, the then Major General Ramesh Halgali who blew the whistle on the land transfer and objected to the NoC being granted.

The officer was initially rapped on the knuckles but was subsequently cleared of all charges.

The Army had earlier told the West Bengal government that this land could not be sold to any commercial developer for security reasons. The developer had falsely claimed that he was setting up an affiliate of the Mayo College in Sukna.

The court martial against Lt Gen Prakash was ordered by the then Army Chief, General Deepak Kapoor, in February last year under pressure from the Defence Ministry. (With agency inputs)

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