Supreme Court of India
Brig L. I. Singh Ysm vs Union Of India on 17 December, 2019
Author: L. Nageswara Rao
Bench: L. Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta
Non-Reportable IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION Civil Appeal Nos. 9223- 9224 of 2019 Brigadier L.I. Singh YSM .... Appellant(s) Versus Union of India & Ors. …. Respondent(s) JUDGMENT
L. NAGESWARA RAO, J.
1. The refusal of the Armed Forces Tribunal, Principal
Bench, New Delhi (for short “the Tribunal”) to interfere
with the disciplinary action initiated against the
Appellant is the subject matter of these Appeals.
2. The Appellant was commissioned in the Jammu &
Kashmir Light Infantry, Indian Army on 17.12.1983. He
was the Commander of 164 Mountain Brigade from
01.12.2012 to 29.03.2012. Brigadier R.K. Jha took over
as the Commander of 164 Mountain Brigade on
30.03.2012. After taking over, Brigadier R.K. Jha was
informed that the property of the Flag Staff House was
not properly accounted for and certain items were
missing as they were taken away by the Appellant.
Brigadier R.K. Jha made inquiries with Major Amit Slathia
and Havildar Yongendra Bahadur Gurung. On being
satisfied that certain items were missing, Brigadier R.K.
Jha directed Colonel S.S. Sidhu, the then Deputy
Commander to undertake a physical check of the Flag
Staff House property. According to the inquiry
conducted by Major Siddharth Virmani and Havildar
Yogendra Bahadur Gurung. Two Heat Pillars, three
carpets and two flower pots were taken away by the
Appellant along with his luggage by being treated as
3. When Brigadier R.K. Jha visited unit 4/1 GR along
with Major Ishani Maitra, Education Officer of 164
Mountain Brigade, he was informed by her that Mrs.
Nirmala Singh, wife of the Appellant had borrowed
money which was subsequently not returned. Having
learnt about the excess commission and omission by
the Appellant, the General Officer Commanding 17
Mountain Division directed a discrete investigation
against the Appellant. After an investigation, Brigadier
R.K. Jha found the following acts and omissions on the
part of the Appellant :
“(i) It was reported by the then Deputy
Commander, Colonel (Now Brigadier) S.S.
Sidhu that Mrs. Sidhu had got a call from Mrs.
L.I. Singh requesting for some money which as
per the Officer, was politely declined.
(ii) It was reported by Major Amit Slathia,
SC that he was under severe duress to obtain
money for the Appellant from Civil Hired
Transport contractors. As reported by the
Officer, since he could not withstand the
pressure and humiliation, he gave Rs.20,000/-
(Rupees twenty thousand only) out of his own
pocket to the Appellant, by withdrawing money
from an ATM at Pedong.
(iii) Major Akhil Mendhe, Second-in-
Command of 6 RAJ RIF who happened to be in
the Brigade Headquarters on a particular day
when Brigadier R.K. Jha was interacting with
the officers, informed Brigadier R.K. Jha that a
loan of Rs.1.00.000/- (Rupees one lakh only)
was arranged for Brigadier L.I. Singh, YSM from
his Unit Wet Canteen Contractor.
(iv) Colonel M. Ravi Shanker,
Commanding Officer 4/1 GR informed Brigadier
R.K. Jha that when the Appellant was the
Commander, a loan of Rs.2,00,000/- (Rupees
two lakhs only) was arranged from his Unit Wet
Canteen Contractor for the Appellant, which
was subsequently returned.
(v) Lieutenant Colonel V.S. Parmar, Admn
Comdt of Station Headquarters, Pedong
reported that the Appellant had taken some
favours from the vendors dealing with the
Station Headquarters, Pedong.”
4. Brigadier R.K. Jha reported accordingly to the
General Officer Commanding 17 Mountain Division who
in return reported to the GOC 33 Corps. Before ordering
an investigation, it was decided that a preliminary
investigation/ one man inquiry should be held. With a
view to find out the correctness of the allegations
against the Appellant, the General Officer Commanding
27 Mountain Division was asked to carry out the
5. On the basis of the report submitted in the
preliminary investigation (One Man Inquiry) and the
verbal complaints made by officers and non-
commissioned officers to Brigadier R.K. Jha, a Court of
Inquiry was convened on 09.06.2012. The
terms of reference given to the Court of Inquiry are as
“(i) Borrowing of money from the wet
canteen contractors of units under his
(ii) Pressurizing IC-59235K Maj. Amit
Slathia, SC, AA&QMG, Headquarters 164
Mountain Brigade to obtain Rs.45,000/- from
the Civil Hired Transport contractor for him
(Brigadier L.I. Singh, YSM).
(iii) Illegally taking away official property
of the Flag Staff House prior to relinquishing
(iv) Accepting items viz., Laptop worth
Rs.62,000/- and Cannon Camera worth
Rs.56,000/- from M/s. United Enterprises and
M/s. Narbada Enterprises respectively.
(v) Any other misdemeanour or financial
impropriety which may have been committed.”
6. The General Inquiry Commander 33 Corps recorded
a finding against the Appellant for the following acts and
“(i) Borrowing Rs.2,00,000/- from the Unit
Canteen Contractor of 4/1 GR Sri Paramanand
Agarwal and his manager Sri Om Prakash
Agarwal through Col. Kapil Sood then CO 4/1
GR in Jan. 2011.
(ii) Borrowing Rs.1,00,000/- from the Unit
Canteen Contractor of 6 RAJ RIF Sri Shiv
Prakash Agarwal through Col. H.S. Baidwan,
SC, Commanding Officer 6 RAJ RIF in Dec.2011.
(iii) Borrowing Rs.35,000/- from Hav.
Rajendra Singh of 6 RAJPUT through his wife
Mrs. Nirmala Singh in Aug.2011.
(iv) Directing IC-59235K Maj. Amit
Slathia, SC, AA&QMG of Headquarters 164,
Mountain Brigade to obtain a gratification of
Rs.45,000/- from the Civil Hired Transport
Contractor for himself and thereafter accepting
Rs.20,000/- from Maj. Amit Slalthia, SC who
paid the same from his own pocket so as to
avoid his repeated demands.
(v) Misappropriating the following
property of the Government given him for his
own use at his Flag Staff House:-
(aa) Heat Pillar - 02 (ab) Carpet 6” x 4” - 01 (ac) Carpet 3” x 2” - 02 (ad) Crystal Flower Pot (Medium) - 01 (ae) Crystal Flower Pot (Big) - 01
(vi) Accepting illegal gratification in the
form of a Laptop (Dell Model No.552 (XPX 15 R)
worth Rs.62,000/- from M/s. United Station
Headquarters, Pedong and Headquarters 164
(vii) Accepting illegal gratification in the
form of Canon Digital Camera (SLR EoS 60 D)
and 4 GB card worth Rs.56,000/- from M/s.
Narbada Enterprises, a firm carrying out
business of supplying stores with Headquarters
164 Mountain Brigade.
(viii) Transferring Rs.97,211/- in three
transactions to his daughter then studying in
New Zealand through Mr. Ramesh Gurung
brother of No.5349475F Nk Dinesh Gurung of
3/ 4 GR so as to avoid any detection of transfer
of money from his account.
(ix) Issuing directions to IC-47865X
Lieutenant Colonel T.S. Kadian, SM to procure
items for Pedong Sainik Institute through M/s.
Narbada Enterprises only, thereby influencing
the entire tendering process and in turn
obtaining items at a high rate such as Sharp
Video Projection System at Rs.95,000/- though
the prevailing market rate and DGS&D rate are
Rs.40,000/- and Rs.26,500/- respectively, thus
causing wrongful loss to the State.
(x) Committing financial impropriety
leading to misappropriation of Regimental Fund
of Headquarters 164 Mountain Brigade by way
of directing IC-47865X Lieutenant Colonel T.S.
Kadian, SM to clear his personal expenditure
incurred in the Flag Staff House and during his
visit by making false handmade bills. Such a
practice was also in contravention to rules/
regulations on proper utilization of Regimental
7. A prima facie case was made against the Appellant
and he was attached to the Headquarters, 20 Mountain
Division in accordance with the provisions of Army
Instructions 30 of 1986. The Appellant filed O.A. No.85
of 2013 in the Armed Forces Tribunal, Principal Bench,
New Delhi challenging the order of attachment, which
was dismissed by the Tribunal at the admission stage.
Aggrieved by the said order of the Tribunal, the
Appellant filed a Writ Petition in the High Court of Delhi.
In the meanwhile, the disciplinary proceedings were
initiated against the Appellant by commencing hearing
of charge in terms of Rule 22 of the Army Rules, 1954
(for short “the Army Rules”) on the basis of the
tentative charge sheet. During the hearing of charge,
17 witnesses were examined and the Appellant cross-
examined two witnesses.
8. By an order dated 29.04.2013, the High Court
stayed further proceedings against the Appellant. The
Writ Petition was dismissed by an order dated
20.03.2015, giving liberty to the Appellant to pursue his
remedies under Section 30 and 31 of the Armed Forces
Tribunal Act, 2008. A Review Application filed by the
Appellant was allowed by the Tribunal on 27.01.2016
and the Original Application was admitted. The order by
which the Review Application was admitted by the
Tribunal was challenged by the Respondent- Union of
India in this Court, unsuccessfully. By an order dated
06.02.2019, O.A. No.85 of 2013 was finally disposed of
by directing the Respondent- Union of India to supply a
copy of the one man inquiry report to the Appellant and
to commence the disciplinary proceedings against the
Appellant. Applications filed by the Appellant for Review
and Leave to Appeal to this Court were dismissed by the
Tribunal. The judgment and the order by which
application for review was dismissed are assailed by the
Appellant in these Appeals.
9. Consequent upon the dismissal of O.A. No.85 of
2013 by the Tribunal, the Appellant reported to the
Headquarters, 21 Mountain Division on 17.01.2019. A
copy of the one man inquiry was handed over to the
Appellant and recording of summary evidence which
commenced on 26.03.2016 was in progress. In the
meanwhile, the Appellant retired from service on
30.04.2019. Thereafter, Section 123 of the Army Act
was invoked to continue the disciplinary proceedings
against the Appellant. As the interim order passed by
this Court on 06.02.2019 was operative, the disciplinary
proceedings could not proceed.
10. Before the Tribunal, the Appellant contended that
initiation of disciplinary proceedings against him was
vitiated by mala fide. He further contended that there
was infraction of Rule 180 of the Army Rules. The main
submission of the Appellant before the Tribunal was that
a copy of the one man inquiry report was not furnished.
As the one man inquiry report was the basis for
initiation of the Court of Inquiry proceedings, it was
contended that the Appellant was deprived of an
opportunity to defend himself effectively before the
Court of Inquiry. The Appellant further complained that
an opportunity as provided by Rule 180 of the Army
Rules was not extended to him during the course of the
inquiry proceedings. The Tribunal rejected his
submission of any mala fide made against the
Appellant. However, the Tribunal held that the
Appellant was wrongfully denied a copy of the one man
inquiry report during the inquiry proceedings. Insofar as
the complaint of an opportunity not being given to the
Appellant as per Rule 180 of the Army Rules, the
Tribunal observed that the Appellant was present
throughout the proceedings of the Court of Inquiry and
that he avoided the opportunity of cross-examining the
witnesses as well. The allegation of violation of Rule
180 made by the Appellant was not accepted by the
Tribunal. The Tribunal took note of the fact that the
disciplinary proceedings were stalled due to cases
pending in courts. While directing that the one man
inquiry report shall be handed over to the Appellant, the
Tribunal directed the Respondents to complete the
process of disciplinary proceedings.
11. Mr. Sudhanshu S. Pandey, learned counsel
appearing for the Appellant made a valiant effort to
convince us that the initiation of disciplinary
proceedings against the Appellant was due to
extraneous considerations. He submitted that the
records have been concocted to show compliance of the
procedure provided in Rule 180 during the Court of
Inquiry. According to him, there is a clear violation of
Rule 180 of the Army Rules as the Appellant was not
given sufficient opportunity to defend himself. He
submitted that the Appellant is being tormented with an
ulterior motive in spite of his retirement after a
meritorious record of service. He urged that the
entire disciplinary proceedings should be quashed as
the Appellant has been victimized on the basis of
certain frivolous complaints even after his retirement.
12. Mr. R. Balasubramanian, learned Senior Counsel
appearing for the Respondents produced the original
record of the Court of Inquiry. Mr. Balasubramanian
submitted that there is no truth in the allegation that
the records have been manipulated by the Respondents.
He submitted that the one man inquiry was only in the
nature of a preliminary investigation to verify the facts
before the Court of Inquiry was ordered against the
Appellant. He argued that there was no violation of the
Rule 180 of the Army Rules as held by the Tribunal. He
submitted that full opportunity was given to the
Appellant during the course of the proceedings before
the Court of Inquiry. He stoutly defended the judgment
of the Tribunal by commending for our consideration
non- interference with the judgment of the Tribunal.
13. In view of the order we propose to pass, it is not
required to take into consideration the submissions
made on behalf of the Appellant regarding the
allegation of mala fides. Admittedly, the one man
inquiry report was not furnished to the Appellant. There
is no dispute that the basis for the convening of the
Court of Inquiry is the one man inquiry report. The
Tribunal directed the Respondents to provide a copy of
the one man inquiry report to the Appellant before
continuing with the disciplinary proceedings against the
Appellant. Though, we are not disturbing the findings of
the Tribunal regarding the compliance of Rule 180 of the
Army Rules, we are of the considered opinion that
the direction given by the Tribunal requires modification.
Without the report of the one man inquiry, the Appellant
was certainly disabled from effectively defending
himself in the Court of Inquiry. The Appellant is entitled
to an opportunity to cross examine the witnesses
against him after examining the one man inquiry report.
Further, the Appellant raised the issue of the one man
inquiry report not being provided to him at the earliest
possible time. Therefore, the directions issued by the
Tribunal that disciplinary proceedings be conducted
afresh requires to be modified. The Court of Inquiry has
to be conducted afresh. The Appellant is entitled to
cross-examine witnesses and produce witnesses in his
14. For the aforementioned reasons, we affirm the
judgment of the Tribunal with the modification
mentioned above. The Court of Inquiry shall be held
against the Appellant afresh. As the Appellant has
retired from service, the Court of Inquiry may be
initiated and completed expeditiously. Further
proceedings, if any, may be conducted without any
15. The Appeals are disposed of accordingly.
December 17, 2019.