Sukna land deal & controversy: Explained

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Former Army chief VK Singh
The Armed Forces Tribunal has quashed the court martial of Lt Gen (retd) PK Rath, former Commander of 33 Corps who was punished for his alleged role in land dealing in Sukna, West Bengal. Rath is one of the four generals indicted in the infamous Sukna land scam case that rocked the Army five years ago. 

What is the case?

  • The case is about a 71-acre civilian land, also called the Chumta tea, a tea estate adjacent to the military cantonment in Sukna in West Bengal.
  • The military officers transferred the land to a private real estate developer on the pretext of building an educational institution.
  • The land deal came light in mid-2008 when former Army chief Gen V K Singh was the Eastern Army Commander and had initiated the court of inquiry in the alleged land scam.
  • The Army court found former military secretary Lt Gen Avadesh Prakash guilty in the case and ordered his dismissal from service.

Genesis of Sukna land scam

  • The case dates back to 2008 when Avadesh Prakash was serving as military secretary to then Army chief Gen Deepak Kapoor.
  • The controversial land did not belong to the Army, but it was so close to the Sukna military station that it needed a no-objection certificate from the military authorities before it could be transferred by the West Bengal Government to private realtor.
  • According to a court of inquiry, Avadesh Prakash was found guilty of influencing Lt Gen PK Rath, the 33 Corps Commander, in 2008 to get the Sukna military station officers to issue a NoC on the pretext that an educational institution will be built there.
  • The Army in May, 2008 wrote to the West Bengal Government to acquire the said 71-acre land.
  • When Avadesh Prakash visited Sukna military station on an official tour, he referred Dilip Aggarwal, a private realtor to Rath. 
  • In March 2009, the military station issued the NoC to Aggarwal.
  • Later that year, the matter was brought to the notice of former Army chief who was General Officer Commanding-in Chief (GOC-in-C) of the Army's Eastern Command that time.
  • Singh ordered the court of inquiry and later recommended the court martial against Army officers involved in the scam.
  • In 2011, a court martial had found Rath guilty in the alleged scam for issuing a 'no-objection certificate' to the private builder.
  • Appealing against the court-martial order, Rath took the matter forward to Armed Forces Tribunal.

The development in the case

  • The Armed Forces Tribunal (ATC) on Friday quashed the court martial of Rath.
  • AFT observed that the NoC violated no rules as the land did not belong to the Army. 
  • The Tribunal has imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh on the Army for "harassment and loss of honour" for Lt Gen Rath in the case.
  • The Tribunal allowed Rath's petition in which he had alleged that Gen V K Singh had given "undue importance" to the case.
  • In his petition, Rath said Singh had a "serious grudge" against the then military secretary Lt gen Avdesh Prakash over the issue of his date of birth.
  • Rath said the verdict has vindicated his stand.
  • VK Singh demanded that the Government should go for appeal against the military panel's judgement.
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