It would send a wrong signal and impact the discipline of the Armed Forces, the Bench said.
Coming down heavily on an Army man who overstayed his casual leave period without informing his seniors for about one and a half years, the Supreme Court has observed that such serious misconducts by Armed Force members amount to indiscipline and cannot be countenanced.
The court set aside the order of the tribunal, which had directed his reinstatement. and observed that it would send a wrong signal and impact the discipline of the Armed Forces. The court, however, modified the order of dismissal from service to one of discharge from service simplicitor.
The tribunal had set aside the order of disciplinary authority which had sentenced Nallam Shiva to undergo punishment of four months’ rigorous imprisonment, dismissal from service and reduction in rank. He approached the Armed Forces Tribunal contending that he overstayed because of compelling circumstances due to matrimonial dispute and illness of his father, resulting in mental disturbances. The tribunal, taking note of the fact that it was his first offence and also Regulation 754(C) of the Defence Service Regulations for Air Force, held that the punishment awarded was excessive and disproportionate and ordered reinstatement. This order was assailed before the apex court.
In the facts of the case, speaking for a three-judge bench, Justice AM Khanwilkar observed: “He did not bother to intimate his whereabouts either to his superiors or to the nearest military station during the intervening period stretched up to around 1½ years. If he was suffering from any illness personally or for that matter if his father suffered a paralytic attack, he ought to have gone to the Military Hospital for treatment. However, he did not choose to go to the Military Hospital but to a quack.”
The court also observed that the fact that he has already undergone punishment of sentence period for the offence of desertion can be of no avail so as to interdict the decision of the disciplinary authority to dismiss the respondent from service.
“It was not a case of overstaying for couple of days or a technical and trivial offence committed by the respondent. He overstayed beyond the casual leave period for around 1½ years without informing either his superiors or the nearest military station as to his whereabouts,” the bench observed.