He was summarily dismissed for allegedly leaking national secrets
An Armed Forces Tribunal in Mumbai has quashed a Navy order dismissing one of its officers for alleged breach of national security.
The order marks an embarrassing watershed for the Navy, which dismissed three officers in 2013 accusing them of leaking national secrets. The Navy chief invoked his special privileges to summarily dismiss them without even court-martial proceedings.
This is the second officer among the three to successfully challenge the Navy’s decision. The first officer challenged the Navy up to the Supreme Court, and is now back in service, while the third officer is believed to have migrated out of India after his dismissal, without raising any legal challenge to the order.
With the Navy’s entire stand over their dismissal coming apart, it raises questions about internal accountability for ruining the careers of the three mid-service officers.
“All charges against Commander Lijo Stephen Chacko has been set aside and he has been notionally reinstated for the purposes of pension and other privileges,” Advocate Satendra Kumar, counsel for the officer, said. The order was issued on April 28.
The order found serious flaws with the entire inquiry and the claims made by the Navy. “Though there was a staff recommendation to get the involved machines and hard-drives analysed by experts, the same was never done,” the order said.
“There is no documentation of any forensic analysis of the unauthorized pen-drives, home computers, connecting Internet data cards on official laptops/computers. This is a serious shortcoming in the B of I [Board of Inquiry]. There are file-notings to show that the sensitivity of the information passed was also low,” said the AFT Bench, comprising Air Marshal D.C. Kumaria and Justice B.P. Katakey.
The Bench said: “In our opinion, the charge that the applicant had deliberately jeopardised National Security is too far-fetched. That is not to say that he has not violated the laid down rules and regulations. The case has been grossly overstated.”
The Bench dismissed other charges of moral turpitude against the officer.