The Central Government’s strong message ‘no clemency for fake killings to advance ranks and military careers’ has washed out Colonel H S Kohli’s hope as well as the army’s desperate efforts to save him from humiliation.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) rejected on Thursday the Army’s recommendation to reinstate Kohli or either reduced to loss of seniority. The Ministry said clemency in such cases would set bad example for the nation.
The army recommended that Kohli should be punished with the loss of rank and retirement benefits and loss of five years of seniority instead of the absolute dismissal.
A source however informed that Ministry of Defence (MoD) not only maintained the dismissal but also come out with harsh suggestion for Army that it should have taken strict action against his superiors too.
Colonel Kohli notoriously dubbed as ‘Ketchup Colonel’ after he was found guilty of fake killing of terrorists and showing faked photos of slain terrorists by splashing tomato sauce on them to win gallantry awards near Silchar in Assam in 2003. Kohli was then commanding officer of the artillery regiment. He was dismissed from the army in November 2004 after a court martial found him guilty.
However later a different picture revealed that Kohli was made the scapegoat since he was acting under the orders of his immediate senior Brigadier Suresh Rao, the then commanding officer of the 73 Mountain Brigade.
Allegations were also laid on Major-General Ravinder Singh, the then 57 Mounting Division Commander and the superior officer of Brigadier Rao was also engaged in the entire affairs.
Brig Rao was then court-martialled while Maj-Gen Singh did not face any legal proceedings until now and was retired. The Defence Ministry termed the Army's decision not to punish Major General Singh as a "convenient" one.
The army's reasoning for the reduction in Kohli's punishment was that he should not get a much harsher punishment than Brig Rao, who is back in service, in the interest of justice and equity was not found reasonable by the Ministry of Defence.
The Ministry turned down this reasoning perhaps not wanting to set a model for others dismissed for similar offences also seeking clemency.
Reduction in Kohli’s punishment was no doubt would have send a wrong message to the entire nation and the army itself where scheming fake encounters to collect gallantry award, enhancement in ranks is not a strange practice. Army is known for its selfless service to the cause of nation and these practices would only set the wrong precedent for the upcoming generation and thus should be dealt with stern hand.
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