Major Leetul Gogoi held guilty in Srinagar hotel case: Defence personnel say officer's actions were grave offences

An army Court of Inquiry on Monday held Major Leetul Gogoi guilty of violating its laws with respect to establishing undue contact with local people, and for unauthorisedly moving out of his area of operation — the 53 Rashtriya Rifles camp in Beerwah. In May, Gogoi allegedly tried to enter a hotel in Srinagar with an 18-year-old woman.

Army spokesperson Col Aman Anand said that the Court of Inquiry reported that the officer erred on two counts. "One was fraternising with local people, and the other was leaving the unit without permission."

He added, “We will now proceed with the next process. Till now, it was a court of inquiry, and not a statutory process. Now, we will start the statutory process as well.”

Local human rights activist Mohammad Ahsan Untoo said that he has filed a plea in the matter in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM), Srinagar. He said that the court's judgment may be delivered on Tuesday. He said that the case shouldn't be seen only as a “grave offence of moral turpitude,” and that it also “points towards the unbridled powers that the army enjoys in Kashmir.”

Earlier, the Jammu and Kashmir Police stated in a report submitted before the CJM that the woman with whom he was caught had told them that she befriended Gogoi after he faked his identity on social media.

File image of Major Leetul Gogoi. News18

File image of Major Leetul Gogoi. News18

While the Army Act has provisions for dismissal and imprisonment, an official said that during the army trial, the officer can be given due opportunity to present his case. The official said, "After the army initiates proceedings against Major Gogoi, he can be represented by a defending officer, after the set of charges is read out against him."

The official added that the army will take into consideration his earlier record of service before pronouncing its sentence.

Army officials said that Major Gogoi's actions amounted to grave offences under the Army Act, and pointed to restrictions that remain in force "for serving officials under the army instructions, Army Act and Official Secrets Act.”

They said that the commanding officer of the unit was also responsible for "his failure to prevent Major Gogoi and (another army soldier) Sameer Malla from interacting with local people."

An army official said, "Serving army officers cannot speak to the media, or even express their opinions on social networking sites. The concerned officer has to apply for a proper casual leave even for visiting home. In this case, the rules seem to have been flouted flagrantly."

As per the Army Act, “ if any person subject to this Act absents himself without leave or without sufficient cause overstays leave granted to him, when in camp or garrison or elsewhere, is found beyond any limits fixed, or in any place prohibited, by any general, local or other order, without a pass or written leave from his superior officer, shall on conviction by court-martial be liable to suffer imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or such less punishment as is in this Act mentioned.” The Act further notes that, “ any officer, junior commissioned officer or warrant officer who behaves in a manner unbecoming his position and the character expected of him shall, on conviction by court-martial, if he is an officer, be liable to be cashiered or to suffer such less punishment as is in this Act mentioned; and, if he is a junior commissioned officer or a warrant officer, be liable to be dismissed or to suffer such less punishment as is in this Act mentioned. Any person subject to this Act who is guilty of any act or omission which, though not specified in this Act, is prejudicial to good order and military discipline shall, on conviction by court-martial, be liable to suffer imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years or such less punishment as is in this Act mentioned.”

Senior army officials who did not wish to be quoted, however, said that Gogoi may only be issued a warning. They pointed out that restrictions on speaking to the media were earlier selectively relaxed for him, after he had paraded Kashmiri youth Farooq Ahmad Dar on a street in Budgam.

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Updated Date: Aug 27, 2018 22:37:03 IST

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