A major sigh of relief for Major ( now retired) Kunwar Ambreshwar Singh after 34 years of legal battle as India’s Supreme Court exonerated him of charges of alleged misconduct and awarded him the rank of Lieutenant Colonel . Who knows better than Kunwar Ambreshwar Singh the value of pride and honour.
Kumar Ambreshwar Singh had joined Army in 1967. As a Major in the 26 Madras Regiment in June 1984, he was posted at Jalandhar as part of the 38 Infantry Brigade and 15 Infantry Division. There he was given the task to flush out Sikh extremists from the temple complex in Amritsar.
Army veteran Kunwar Ambreshwar Singh was among the officers who led the Operation Blue Star in 1984. The charges against him were that he had retained certain electronic items recovered during the operation to flush out terrorists from the Golden Temple complex.India’s top court upheld the decision of Armed Forces Tribunal setting aside the punishment of reprimand awarded to Major (now retd) Kunwar Ambreshwar Singh. The bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bushan dismissed the appeal of the Centre against the AFT order and reduced the cost imposed on the government from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 1 lakh.
What did Armed Forces Tribunal say?
On August 11, 2017, The AFT, Lucknow, gave verdict in favour of Major Kunwar Ambreshwar Singh. In its verdict, the ATF exonerated Major of all the charges and set aside the order passed by the Chief of the Army Staff. The Army chief’s order decided not to grant substantive rank of Lt Col by time scale to him and all other directions which deprived him promotional avenues. It said that Army and the government have failed to establish even an iota of charges against Singh who seems to have been “arbitrarily and vexatiously” prosecuted and punished.
The AFT said that the government will promote Singh notionally on the substantive rank of Lt Col (Time Scale) along with his batch-mates for the purpose of payment of arrears of salary and post-retiral dues, pension and other benefits.
“The effect of Operation Blue Star of June, 1984 still haunting and the present case is offshoot of said operation wherein a commissioned officer of Indian Army is struggling for justice since last 33 years,” the tribunal had observed. Singh was commissioned in the Army in 1967. The tribunal acknowledged the contribution of Major and in its order noted that Singh, following the command of his superior Lt Col KMG Pannikar, led initial entry into Golden Temple Complex and apprehended one of the Sevadars of Jarnail Singh Bhindrawala.He also apprehended a large number of extremists, recovered a huge cache arms, ammunition, explosives and documents and had made clearance of Western and Southern Parikrama, final clearance of Akal Takht and Gurdwara at Dukh Bhajan Berry, the facts not denied by the Army or the government.After the completion of the operations, the officer was undisputedly recommended for Ashok Chakra. The government did not categorically deny the fact of recommendation of the gallantry award to Singh, but maintained it was a confidential record and may have been weeded out.
The tribunal noted that the problem started on June 8, 1984, when some troops of the Unit recovered four electronic items, which included one Videocassette Recorder, one-three-in-one music system, one Akai Deck and one colour TV. “The items were brought to Battalion Headquarters in presence of Lt Col Pannikar. According to the petitioner, troops requested that these items should be kept as souvenirs, which was acceded by Lt Col Pannikar. It was Lt Col Pannikar, who instructed Capt Rajiv Chopra to bring the four electronic items and keep them in Unit Lines at Jalandhar,” the tribunal order said.
The tribunal said that those who actually took the decision to retain the items as souvenir have been promoted to higher ranks and enjoyed higher status and rank of army service and a person who has worked hard with appreciation in his service career, recommendee of Ashok Chakra, suffered because of no fault.
The AFT had set aside a court of Inquiry finding which had blamed five officers, including Singh, for illegal detention of four electronic itemWe have noticed that from the finding and opinion expressed by the Court of Inquiry and the statements of the witnesses under Court of Inquiry, no case is made out solely against the petitioner. No recovery was done from petitioner’s house. Items were recovered from his neighbour’s house…,”the tribunal had noted.