Report by- Riddhima Bhadauria
The Supreme court, on Wednesday 30-07-2020 restored the sentence of cashiering from service imposed on an army officer for misbehaving with two women while examining them. The Bench comprising Justice L. Nageswara Rao, Justice Hemant Gupta, Justice S.Ravindra Bhat opined that LT. Col. SS Bedi had abused the fiduciary relationship between doctor and patient and this act of doctor is not condonable.
The appellant contended that his application to file was rejected by the tribunal. He filed a criminal appeal aggrieved by the judgment of the Tribunal upholding the conviction ordered by the General Court Martial and imposition of a fine of Rs.50,000/-. The appellant was convicted for misbehaving with two women during a checkup for touching their private parts and hence he was charged under section 354 IPC 1860 for using criminal force on women with intent to outrage their modesty. Appellant was presented by learned counsel Sridhar potaraju contended that conviction of the appellant is unsustainable as the evidence on record is not proper and the He further stated that the testimony of Lt. Col. R. Sharma is also in favour of the Appellant. Also, the physical examination of both the complainants was necessary for the ailments that were being suffered by them. One was suffering from bronchial asthma and the other had a complaint of the duodenal ulcer which involves exposure of breast. He also said that forfeiting pensionary benefits is not right as contemplated in section 71(h) of army act, 1950. Therefore, the Appellant is entitled to payment of pension. Court also gave similar decisions in cases like Union of India v. Brig. P.K. Dutta (Retd.) and Union of India v. P.D. Yadav.
- General court-martial converted the sentence from cashiering from service (section 71(d) of the army act, 1950) to a fine of Rs 50,000.
- Union of India(respondent) filed criminal appeal no. 13 in 2013 aggrieved by the alteration of punishment.
- The pension of the appellant cannot be forfeited as that in the absence of an order passed under section 71(h).
- The pension of an army officer cashiered from service may be forfeited at the discretion of the president.
- The Supreme court on 30-07-2020 restored the sentence of cashiering from service.
Mr. Vikramjit Banerjee, learned Additional Solicitor General appearing for the Respondent contended that there is ample evidence on record pointing to the guilt of the appellant. He also contended that the conversion of sentence by the Tribunal was unwarranted. The Appellant had misbehaved with two patients and the expert evidence also shows that there was no necessity of the Appellant touching the private parts of the complainants. Both the complainants were suffering from a disease which involves exposure of breast but touching or squeezing it is totally unnecessary hence the appellant was rightly held guilty under section 354 of IPC, 1860.
SC Restores the Punishment of Cashiering of Service
The Supreme court was not convinced with the reasons given by tribunal for converting the sentence from cashiering to the imposition of a fine of Rs 50,000. So, it recently restored the punishment of cashiering of service by taking into account the “reprehensible conduct of the Appellant abusing a position of trust being a Doctor which is not condonable”. However the court directed the respondents to consider the entire record of service of the Appellant and his advanced age while taking a decision to initiate proceedings under the Army Pension Regulations. In case the Respondents decide not to initiate proceedings under Army Pension Regulations, the Appellant shall be entitled for all pensionary benefits.
What are the key provisions of the Army Act, 1950 discussed here?
- Section 71(d) tells about the cashiering in the case of officers.
- Section 71(h) tells about the forfeiture of service for the purpose of increased pay, pension or any other prescribed purpose.
- Section 71(k )explains the forfeiture in the case of a person sentenced to cashiering or dismissal from the service of all arrears of pay and allowances and other public money due to him at the time of such cashiering or dismissal.