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Heat on army’s Anjali

New Delhi, Dec. 9: After a court martial found a lady officer of the Indian Air Force, Anjali Gupta, guilty, it is now the turn of the army.

An officer and a lady in the army is facing a court of inquiry after suspected offences that are now being described only as “procedural lapses”.

Defence sources in Delhi said Gupta is not the first woman officer to be court martialled. So, the army officer who is facing the court of inquiry is not the second woman in the armed forces to be investigated for lapses in work.

Gupta’s is the first time, however, that the defence authorities have made the case against a lady officer public. But the authorities refused to make a gender divide of cases and charges involving women.

Gupta today lost her sexual harassment case against three senior officers.

The armed forces are mostly reluctant to discuss proceedings against officers ' particularly women ' unless it involves charges of treason because it can discourage potential applicants.

Women have been inducted into the armed forces non-combatant wings only as officers since 1998 on short service commissions to overcome the shortage of men.

It is another matter that the defence authorities have since found the performance of women to be above expectations. The All India Democratic Women’s Association this May demanded gender-specific regulations on employment of women after the court martial was instituted to try Gupta’s case.

The lady officer of the rank of major whose functioning is being probed by the court of inquiry works in the army’s Judge Advocate General branch that gives legal advice to commanders and also administers regulations for court martial. She is posted in the area under the western command. A law officer, the major’s work in processing cases that have come up before the Judge Advocate General is being probed.

Before the court of inquiry arrives at a conclusion, sources in army headquarters are unwilling to use words like “corruption” that describe the nature of offences suspected to have been committed.

They said the inquiry report is expected next month. If a prima facie case is made out against the officer, the summary of evidence will be taken on record and proceedings for a general court martial may be initiated.

The sources said it had not yet been concluded if the “procedural lapses” were because of mistakes made by the officer or acts of deliberation for extra-official considerations.

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