The ministry of defence (MoD) has moved the Supreme Court against an Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) order that criticised the army for throwing out its lowest-rung officers after holding them responsible for a terrorist attack at one of its bases in Akhnoor in 2003.
The tribunal had, in its last year’s verdict, dismissed the army’s contention that the jawans failed to display the act of valour and committed a military offence.
“The Indian Army is not an army of cowards. When a lapse takes place, largely attributable to lack of leadership at various levels, inadequate infrastructure and inadequate training, to brand all those at the lowest-rung carrying out sentry duties as cowards without a trace of valid evidence and take away their means of livelihood would be nothing but a gross travesty of justice,” the AFT had said.
In its appeal before the top court, the army refuted the allegations against its senior officers and accused the soldiers of being cowards. Seeking dismissal of the eight soldiers, the army has challenged the AFT’s opinion that the attack was due to a “multi-dimensional” failure in the security setup of the entire unit, especially the leadership. The guards at duty could not effectively engage and neutralise the attack, but ran away. They were expected to “accept the challenge from the terrorist and give an effective reply to thwart it”, the army said.
Before the tribunal, the jawans had argued that the terrorist attack was successful due to lack of able leadership and ineffective functioning of seniors. Taking their side, the tribunal had held no proper briefing was imparted to the junior-rank officers nor were they prepared to counter the attack.