Supreme Court Restores Punishment of Cashiering Imposed on Army Doctor

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The Appellant was cashiered under the Army Act. The Court, in this case, discusses the relation between cashiering and forfeiture of pension payments of convicts.

Brief Facts of the Case 

The case involves two appeals. Lt. Col. S. S. Bedi is the appellant in the second appeal. Hence referred to as the Appellant. The appeals have been preferred against the judgment of the Armed Forces Tribunal. Therein, the conviction of Lt. Col. S. S. Bedi was confirmed.

The Appellant was commissioned in the Indian Army Medical Corps. While stationed at Base Hospital Lucknow, a complaint was made by two women. The complainant raised the issue of misappropriate behaviour. The Appellant was alleged to have inappropriately touched the complainants. The General Court Martial charged and held the Appellant guilty of Section 354 of IPC. The Appellant was cashiered. The Armed Forces Tribunal, Principal Bench, Delhi converted cashiering to a fine.

Arguments

The Appellant argued that the evidence on record was unsustainable. It was not appreciated by the General Court Martial and the Tribunal. Also, the physical examination of the complainants was necessary for the ailments. Furthermore, the forfeiture of pensionary benefits is not automatic. Hence, the Appellant is entitled to payment of pension.

Per contra, the Respondent argued that the evidence was ample. Furthermore, the Respondents argued the conversion of the sentence from fine to cashiering.

Court’s View

The Court observed that the contention of the Appellant unacceptable. There was sufficient evidence on record. All pointed the fact that the Appellant misbehaved. Further, for bronchial asthma, squeezing of breasts and nipples was unnecessary. Additionally, there was no motive to falsely implicate the Appellant. Hence, a charge of guilt was well-founded.

The punishment for offences committed is dealt with under Section 71 of the Army Act. Section 71(d) stipulated cashiering. Section 71(h) stipulated forfeiture. The Court referenced the Union of India v. P. K. Dutta, 1995 Supp. (2) SCC 29. Therein, the Court dealt with Section 71(h) and Regulation 16(a) of Pension Regulation. Regulation 16(a) stipulates about how the pension is to be dealt with a dismissed officer. The Court held that there was no inconsistency between the two.

Furthermore, the Court referenced to Union of India v. P. D. Yadav, (2002) 1 SCC 405. The Court observed that Section 71 and Regulation 16(a) ‘operate in distinct fields.’ In the instant case, there was only cashiering of the Appellant. No proceedings were initiated under Regulation 16(a). The Court observed that the Respondents are at liberty to initiate proceedings under Regulation 16(a).

The Court found that conversion of cashiering to a fine not convincing. The actions of the Appellant as a doctor could not be condoned.

Court’s Decision

The Court restored the punishment of cashiering and directed it to refund the fine deposited.


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