The Jammu and Kashmir police have filed a chargesheet against a Lieutenant Colonel-rank officer in an alleged molestation case even as the Indian Army has opted for a civil court trial despite the local court in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district giving them the option to choose between court martial and criminal proceedings.
A case under Section 354 (assault or criminal force with intent to outrage modesty) of the Ranbir Penal Code had been registered at the Safapora police station after a 34-year-old Mumbai woman accused the Lt Col of molesting her at the Manasbal Cantonment, near Srinagar, in January last year.
“During the course of investigation, statements of witnesses were recorded and site plan was prepared during which Sections 354-A (sexual harassment) and 354-D (stalking) were incorporated in the case.
In light of the facts, given circumstances and evidences collected so far, Sections 354-A and D were established against accused,” says the charge-sheet accessed by The Tribune.
According to the chargesheet, filed nine months after the case was registered, as the accused is a Central Government employee and currently posted at Manasbal camp, his arrest could not be made out. “And after legal opinion, the challan of the case was produced before the court of law for its judicial determination,” it added.
The accused was not arrested by the police citing Section 549 (delivery to military authorities of persons liable to be tried by court martial) of the J-K CrPC. Had the offence been committed by a civilian, his arrest was mandatory and his presence before the magistrate at the time of challan was necessary.
The Army had ordered a CoI and defence officials said prime facie, the inquiry had not found the officer involved in the offences. They claimed due to the “non-cooperation” of the complainant, the CoI could not be proceeded. However, the officer has been found guilty of “lapses”, including inviting civilians to Army garrison without permission.
2018 Manasbal garrison case
In a complaint to police, a Mumbai woman claimed she along with her husband stayed at Manasbal garrison guest house, Ganderbal, as guests of the Lt Col from January 1-4, 2018
On January 2 night, Lt Col allegedly molested her at a get-together held at the officers’ mess of 3 sector RR. The details were conveyed to acting Colonel and a written complaint filed.