Antony orders inquiry into harassment of woman Army captain

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New Delhi, July 16 : Defence Minister A.K.Antony on Wednesday ordered an inquiry into an allegation of physical and mental harassment that was leveled by Captain Poonam Kaur of the Kalka-based Army Services Corps (ASC) battalion against her superior officers.

Capt. Kaur has accused her seniors, including her commanding officer, of physically and mentally harassing her over the past few months. However, the Army has described the allegations as baseless.

Capt. Kaur was posted to Kalka on October 18, 2007 from Eastern theatre. In December, she requested for allotment of married accommodation on compassionate grounds.

Though she was unmarried and not authorised to get married accommodation, her case was sympathetically considered and granted by the Army.

On June 30, Capt. Kaur was ordered to move to Pathankot to command a detachment of her unit located there. She initially accepted the orders, but then requested that the posting be delayed till July 11 for personal reasons. The Army said that this request was also accomodated.

On July 11 Capt. Kaur was again instructed to move, but she again requested that she be allowed to leave on July 12, which was also agreed to.

On July 12, Capt. Kaur refused to move to Pathankot, thereby disobeying legal and legitimate orders.

The Army said that on July 13, she asked for an interview with the Major General ASC headquarters, Western Command. She was granted the interview on July 14 and when she was asked to give her grievance in writing, she refused and returned to her unit.

When the Major General visited the ASC battalion at Kalka on July 15 to meet Capt. Kaur, she refused to come out of her quarters to meet him.

The Army clarified that the officer in question has not been placed under any restrictions and is totally free to move around.

"During her last posting at Misamari in Assam, the officer had indulged in similar activities. She had refused to carry out her assigned duties, and when questioned, had alleged mental harassment," the Army said.

These were inquired into and disciplinary action was contemplated. Keeping in view of her young age and pleadings by her mother, she was let off. However her "mental weakness" was recorded in her profile, it added.

Capt. Kaur has alleged that her commanding officers -- Colonel R K Sharma, Lt Colonel Ajay Chawla and Major Suraj Bhan -- had physically and mentally harassed her after she had turned down their physical advances. She also accused them of keeping her in illegal confinement in her quarters at the Kalka military station.

Capt. Kaur claimed that the harassment has been going on ever since her posting to the ASC unit in Kalka in October 2007.

She said her efforts to resolve the problem with the intervention of the Army authorities had failed on Tuesday, when her mother and younger brother, who were staying with her, were thrown out of the quarters and she was illegally detained there.

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