New Delhi, Feb 28 (IANS) His name is Khan. And he, like the protagonist of a recent blockbuster, is also fighting the system to establish his innocence after he was dismissed from the Indian Army, which alleged that his late father had links with Osama bin Laden. He is afraid the army may challenge his reinstatement.
The Armed Forces Tribunal has scrapped an Indian Army order dismissing Naib Subedar Fayaz Khan.
Khan has now moved the Supreme Court, apprehending that the army may challenge the tribunal’s order restoring his service.
In his special lawsuit, known as caveat, filed last week, Khan has pleaded that the apex court should pass no order against him without hearing him on any possible appeal by the army against the tribunal’s order.
Khan was summarily dismissed from his post of religious teacher in 25 Rajput Regiment in August 2005 on the allegation that his father had links with bin Laden. The army never held any court of inquiry (CoI) or court martial proceedings to probe the charges.
‘The proper course for the authorities was to send the petitioner for court martial, where the department could have produced all the evidence and the petitioner would have got an opportunity to defend himself,’ the New Delhi-based principal bench of the tribunal headed by former Supreme Court judge A.K. Mathur ruled early this month while scrapping the dismissal order.
In his lawsuit before the tribunal, Khan has contended that his dismissal was the fallout of a small tiff that his father had on July 8, 2003, with some soldiers over a seat in a train on his way back home to Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh from his place of posting in a northeast border post, where he had come to meet his son.
The tiff led to the soldiers thrusting some innocuous army training course material into his father’s hand and handing him over to the railway police, Khan said in his lawsuit.
The police, in turn, slapped a case of espionage under the Official Secret Act, alleging that he had procured the secret document from his son to hand the same over to one Aftab Khan who had links with Osama bin Laden’s terror outfit.
Khan said that a day later, on July 9, 2003, he too was taken into custody by the army authorities and was detained for over five months at the place of his posting. He was released in November, a week after he wrote to the army chief complaining against the harassment.
Khan’s real trouble began three months after resuming duties, when he sent a representation to higher authorities March 22, 2004, alleging religious discrimination and illegal detention for over five months without any proper inquiry.
This led to the army issuing a show cause notice to him Oct 26, 2004, seeking his explanation for the alleged recovery of the secret army manual from his father. And he was eventually dismissed from the army without even a CoI or court martial proceedings.
Ahmad pointed out to the tribunal that the army dismissed him alleging his father’s link with bin Laden, despite the police failure to prove the case against his father. Additionally, his father, who was 72 in July 2003, died within months of the July 8 incident.
The army alleged that his father had procured the document from him to give it to Aftab Khan, who was to pass it on to bin Laden’s organisation. The army or police never made any effort to trace Aftab Khan, he contended.
But the army asserted before the tribunal that being a Maulvi, he was affected by religious sentiments. His services were terminated by the army chief in the interest of national security.
Though the tribunal held that the order of dismissal passed by resorting to a short cut could not be sustained, it clarified that it had not expressed any opinion on the factual aspects of the case. The army, thus, was free to proceed in accordance with law.
‘Fairness is the hallmark of the judicial system in our country,’ the tribunal said. It required a proper trial to adjudicate whether the conduct was covered under the Official Secrets Act. The army chief could not have resorted to his power under section 20 of the Army Act when there was a provision in the Act for court martial in such cases.
(Rana Ajit can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)