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‘General Dal’ breaks court-martial barrier

New Delhi, Oct. 21: The army has decided to court-martial a three-star general (lieutenant general) in an unprecedented move that sources in the force describe as “an exemplary crackdown on corruption at the top”.

The decision to court-martial Lt General S.K. Sahni was taken almost simultaneously with a decision to take administrative action — a warning — against another Lt General, S.S. Dahiya.

Army headquarters has designated Lt General V.K. Singh, corps commander at Ambala, to head the court martial against Sahni. But the generals are seeking to stall the disciplinary proceedings and have moved courts.

Till a year ago, it was almost inconceivable that the army would propose to initiate disciplinary proceedings like a court martial against so senior an officer.

The initiative in army headquarters to proceed against Sahni and Dahiya comes fairly quickly after the cases of the “ketchup colonel” and the “booze brigadier”.

Beginning with the colonel and ending with Sahni, disciplinary proceedings in army headquarters are recording a slow climb up the hierarchy. So far, the senior-most officers to face court martial have been three major generals — the last being Gur Iqbal Singh, who was parcelling army booze to his home town.

The decision to court martial Lt General Sahni, who retired as the director-general, supplies and transport, follows an indictment by the court of inquiry in July.

Sahni and nine others — including major generals B.P.S. Mander and S.C. Mohan — were found guilty of “serious lapses in the procurement of dal for troops”.

Within the senior officer cadre, the cases of Sahni and Dahiya are well known. They are also referred to in private as “General Dal” and “General Poultry”.

The court of inquiry found evidence that Sahni and the nine officers had conspired to order substandard pulses or placed orders that were not delivered, resulting in losses running into several crores.

Sahni retired in end-September but he will continue to be under military law for three years for his actions while in service.

Against Dahiya, another court of inquiry found “irregularities” in the purchase of meat for troops.

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