While no Army official ever came under disciplinary actions for killings of thousands of Kashmiri youths for more than a 3 decades, Major Leetul Gogoi, once a hero of the Indian army is going to face a return slap for meeting a Kashmiri girl (he just met and did not spend a night).
Major Leetul Gogoi, who was detained by police in a Srinagar hotel after he was seen with a local woman in May will now reportedly face court-martial according to army sources.
He has been held accountable by a Court of Inquiry for fraternizing with a local in spite of instructions to the contrary and being away from the place of duty while in an operational area.
Although Gogoi is likely to face a court-martial, the competent authority would decide the next course of action. “If any officer of the Indian Army is found guilty of any offense, we will take strictest possible action,” Indian army chief Gen Bipin Rawat had said.
Major Gogoi had hit the headlines last year after he tied a man to a jeep in Kashmir purportedly as a shield against stone pelters during polling in the Srinagar Lok Sabha by-election on April 9.
Gen Rawat had at that time supported the young officer’s action and honored him with the Army chief’s ‘Commendation Card’ for his ‘sustained efforts’ in the counter-insurgency operation.
Now it seems, Major Leetul Gogoi is in fresh trouble as the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) in Srinagar on Saturday directed the police to submit a report with respect to him being caught in a Srinagar hotel with a Kashmiri girl. An application was filed before the court alleging that he had the intention to ‘carry out an immoral act’ with her.
The CJM has directed that a status report should be filed by the police by 30 May in the case. The Station House Officer (SHO) of Khanyar police station has been directed to submit the report through the Chief Prosecution Officer (CPO).
Gogoi was caught with the girl and another army man, Sameer Ahmad Mala, from a Srinagar hotel. This was after the staff informed the police about an altercation which took place as they did not allow the girl to check into the hotel. The trio was detained for a while and later set free. Senior police officers have taken over the investigation of the case. Police officials said that Sameer was also posted in the army’s Beerwah camp and lives in Khag. The girl’s family members said that both Sameer and Gogoi visited them before she was caught in a Srinagar hotel.
The order by the CJM came even as the army has ordered a Court of Inquiry (CoI) against Major Gogoi with respect to the misconduct which he “resorted to while discharging the duties in Kashmir.” The CoI will be carried out by a Colonel rank officer. A senior army official said that Major Gogoi is “guilty of not keeping his seniors informed while moving from his operational jurisdiction in Beerwah in Budgam to Srinagar.”
The CJM’s directions were in response to an application moved by human rights activist and chairperson of International Forum for Justice and Human Rights (IFJHR), Mohammad Ahsan Untoo. The application has alleged that even as the police claims to have ordered a probe in the matter, it has tried to hush up the case.
The application has questioned why the police let off Major Gogoi and Sameer without following “due procedure of law.”
On Friday, army chief Bipin Rawat promised exemplary punishment if Major Gogoi is found guilty of misconduct. A senior official said that army officers need to maintain a standard operating procedure (SOP) while carrying out duties in militancy-affected areas. “It was not admissible for the Major to meet the girl in the hotel,” a senior officer told the Indian media.
The Col will look into the violation of Section 63 of the Army Act 1950, which states that a person “who is guilty of any act or omission which 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.” The Act also specifies that an 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.”
Advocate Tasveer Shujat, who represented Untoo, said that the application was moved under Section 156 (3) of Criminal Procedure Code (RPC). She said the application contends that the police should have taken the army officer into custody and a proper investigation should have been initiated, which was not done.
“The police should have detained the army officer. Further, they should have registered an FIR in the case,” she added.
Confusion prevails over the age of the girl who was detained by the Jammu and Kashmir police along with Indian Army Major Leetul Gogoi in a Srinagar hotel on Wednesday. The girl’s parents maintain she’s a minor, born in 2001, a statement backed by the hotel manager who recorded her details. However, a few police officials have said she’s legally an adult, as evidenced in her Aadhaar card. A few other policemen, the reporter interviewed the day after the two were held, described the girl as being under the age of consent.
On Thursday, a reporter from an Indian newspaper traveled to the village where the girl lives and was directed to a two-room tin-shed where her family lives. The house of the family has washed away in the 2014 floods and lack of money forced them to relocate to this makeshift lodging. We aren’t identifying the village given the security threat the family faces.
The reporter met with two women in the shed, both visibly frightened of venturing into the details of the incident. One of them, Mehmooda (name changed), mother of the girl, sobbed quietly. She said the girl was the eldest among four siblings and had left home on Wednesday morning to “visit a bank” but instead landed up in a police station.
Mehmooda said Gogoi along with a man named Sameer Mala, who also works in the army, visited her tin-shed on two occasions. “Once he came in the middle of the night. There was furious knocking on the door and I fainted. On the second occasion, at around 7 pm, he came along with Sameer. The army officer asked if anyone was harassing us. We were surprised and told him that there was no such issue,” she said. It is as yet unclear why the two men visited the family.
“My daughter is innocent. She had nothing to do with the army major. I don’t know how she reached Srinagar,” Mehmooda said. “She is a minor. She was born in late 2001. The army major and the local army man should be punished for trying to take advantage of her.”
But the mother failed to produce any documentary evidence of supporting her claim about the age of her daughter. According to her, the girl, who failed her class 10 exam, was working with a self-help group. She said Sameer Malla helped her daughter join the self-help group.
In Srinagar, no one, including the police, was willing to state the girl’s age for the record. While a few police officers told reporters on Wednesday that the girl was a minor, a senior officer told Firstpost on Thursday that she was indeed an adult. He added that “no case” would be made out against Major Gogoi. “It looks like a case of two consensual adults being together,” he said.
Indian newspaper The Tribune reported that the “girl came to the hotel of her own free will… and she wanted to spend time with the Major.” The newspaper quoted sources saying that the girl showed her Adhaar card to the magistrate mentioning her birth as 1999.
However, police sources told the Indian reporters that Major Gogoi has a lot to answer for, including why he reserved a hotel room in a part of Srinagar that is volatile, risking his own life and that of others. It is as yet unclear if he informed his unit about his stay in the hotel. He is reported to have told police that the visit was made to “meet a source”.
It is not common for army officers — even those involved in counter-insurgency operations — to check into hotels or take up lodgings in private homes.
While no case has been registered against Gogoi, the police will prepare a report about the incident. “We have started investigations and we are hopeful that the army will cooperate with the police to bring out facts of the matter,” a senior police officer said.