The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Govt, army signal truce on raiders
The Road ahead

Calcutta, Jan. 2: The Bengal government today indicated that it would not press for civil prosecution of the army officers and soldiers involved in the vandalism of Park Street police station and would be “satisfied” if the defence force took appropriate action.

While announcing that an FIR involving criminal charges had been lodged against those responsible for the incident on New Year’s Day, police commissioner Prasun Mukherjee hinted that the police would not object if the army seeks to try the case in its own court.

At Writers’, home secretary Prasad Ranjan Ray gave a similar indication. “We’ve received a report from Calcutta police. We’re appraising the ministry of defence about it. We will appreciate action on part of the army,” Ray said.

A top army officer was in touch with a senior state government official as well as the police commissioner today.

Though the police publicly stuck to the stand that the arrest of the army officers was justified, sources said both sides have agreed that matters should not be precipitated more. An option on the table is to go through the motions of civil legal procedures and let the army press ahead with its own inquiry.

The army has assured the government that appropriate action will be taken once the investigation is completed.

The sources said the army is contemplating “administrative action” against the officers if the probe establishes that they were at fault. The “administrative action” could take the form of expression of “severe displeasure”. Such action can tell on an officer’s career but it is distinct from a disciplinary procedure such as court martial.

Uniformed soldiers vandalised Park Street police station and beat up policemen on New Year’s Day after getting two officers freed from police custody. The officers, Major Chandra Pratap Singh and Captain Mahesh, were arrested after they were accused of misbehaving with women at a party at a Park Street hotel.

But the army sources have cast doubts on the allegations, saying they have no report of any woman being targeted.

The army has pointed out to the government that given their good relations, the situation could have been defused that night itself had information been passed on to senior officers as required under the law. But the police said they were unaware of the identity of the suspects.

The major and the captain, along with Lt Col Pratap Singh and a major who led the rescue mission, were today called to their brigade headquarters in Barrackpore. The battalion posted in Salt Lake is under the Barrackpore brigade.

In reply to a question, home secretary Ray said it is possible to initiate police action against the army officers, but conceded that “it hasn’t happened too many times in the past”.

Calcutta police have initiated cases involving criminal conspiracy, intimidation with arms and snatching accused persons from police custody against the two officers as well as at least 20 jawans of the Madras Regiment.

“We expect the army would want to shift the case to their court. We would not object because in such cases, the trial usually takes place in the army’s courtrooms,” police chief Mukherjee said.

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