Army doctor’s cashiering: SC says abusing position of trust not condonable

Supreme Court
Supreme Court

New Delhi: In 1986, an army officer working as a medical specialist at Base Hospital Lucknow was charged with allegedly misbehaving with two women during a check up by touching their private parts. After 34 years, the Supreme Court restored the sentence of cashiering from service of the army officer saying abusing a position of trust being a doctor is not condonable.
A bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and S Ravindra Bhatt taking into account the reprehensible conduct of Lt. Col S S Bedi said, “We restore the punishment of penalty of cashiering by taking into account the reprehensible conduct of the appellant abusing a position of trust being a Doctor which is not condonable.”
A complaint was made by two women against Bedi on May 15, 1986 that he misbehaved with them during check up by inappropriately touching their private parts. He was commissioned in the Indian Army Medical Corps on July 24, 1966. The Armed Forces Tribunal upheld Bedi’s conviction but converted the punishment of cashiering to a fine of Rs 50,000.
The Centre filed an appeal in the apex court against this order. The Centre’s counsel argued that the conversion of sentence by the tribunal was unwarranted. “The appellant had misbehaved with two patients and the expert evidence also shows that there was no necessity of the appellant touching the private parts of the complainants”, the Centre argued.
The top court said a perusal of the evidence of the complainants makes it clear that the appellant misbehaved with them during the course of their physical examination. “There was no motive for false implication of the appellant by the complainants; therefore, we are in agreement with the conclusion of the General Court Martial and the Tribunal that the Appellant is guilty of the charge of using criminal force against two women patients”, said the bench.
Bedi’s counsel argued that even if the penalty imposed by the Court Martial of cashiering from service is upheld, forfeiture of all the pensionary benefits of the appellant is not automatic. “He submitted that no order as contemplated in Section 71 (h) of the Army Act, 1950 forfeiting his pension has been directed by the General Court Martial. Therefore, the appellant is entitled for payment of pension”, the bench noted.
“The Tribunal found the imposition of the punishment of cashiering from service shockingly disproportionate. The Tribunal also highlighted the delay in the complaint made against the Appellant. We are not convinced with the reasons given by the Tribunal for converting the sentence from cashiering to imposition of fine of Rs.50,000”, the bench observed.
However, the top court directed the Centre to consider the entire record of service of the appellant and his advanced age while taking a decision to initiate proceedings under the Army Pension Regulations.

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