June 14, 2014 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
Chandigarh/ Punjab (June 14, 2014): Giving relief to an armyman after 30 years when he along with other soldiers had revolted after June 1984 against attack on Shri Akal Takhat Sahib, the Punjab and Haryana High court recently set aside the General Court Martial (GCM) of a Jammu resident Naik Kulwant Singh. He was part of the mutiny near Jalpaiguri in West Bengal.
According to a news report published by Hindustan Times (HT) on its June 14, 2014 edition, Kulwant SIngh faced the GCM as he, along with other Sikh soldiers of 166 Mountain Regiment, on the night of June 10/11, 1984, in a revolutionary spirit, left the unit lines in commandeered vehicles in open defiance of their seniors. Another charge was of desertion and aiding desertion before being arrested on June 11, 1984.
He was awarded two-month rigorous imprisonment after a trial on December 14, 1985.
He was discharged on March 1, 1987, from the Army after serving for over 15 years. He was denied pension as he was punished for desertion and aiding desertion too and so his service was forfeited.
According the report, Kulwant Singh filed the case at the Chandigarh bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal in 2010, after 25 years of GCM, for pension, but lost.
He filed an appeal before the high court claiming that about “170 other ranks from the unit” had left the unit lines on account of emotional stress to join their families “to see for themselves the fate of their families due to attack on Shri Akal Takhat”. He said that however, they had voluntarily surrendered after a few hours of absence from the unit lines at New Jalpaiguri railway station, reported senior reporter Bhartesh Singh Thakur.
It is notable that many Sikh soldiers across posted across Inida had left their units and marched towards Amritsar under the Sikh spirit following attack on the Darbar Sahib complex by the Indian army. However, Indian Army stopped many of them with the help of helicopters, tanks and other heavy infantry, and encounters were witnessed. Many soldiers were killed while others were arrested by the Indian Army. These revolting soldiers were later known as “Dharmi Fauji”.
Many of such soldiers hold on their stand that they had left their units to fight against the state except few, who want to get pension or other benefits.
While ruling in favour of Kulwant Singh, the bench headed by Justice SS Saron declared the GCM as null and void for reason of infraction of Rule 180 of the Army rules.
Under this rule, a person is given opportunity of being present and participate in the inquiry and can give statement or evidence or cross-examine witnesses.
“In-so-far as the delay in approaching the court is concerned, it may be noticed that right of pension is a continuing obligation and the fact that the petitioner has come to the court after a long period, would not disentitle him for the pensionary benefits,” reads the high court judgment.
“The judgment will benefit a number of soldiers as in most cases the army rules were not followed,” said Arun Singla, counsel for Kulwant Singh.
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