Causing major embarrassment to the Indian Navy, the Supreme Court on Tuesday quashed the Navy’s decision to discharge a commander from active service, for merely communicating and sending explicit messages and photos with the spouse of another officer (a foreign woman). The Navy had discharged the said officer on the grounds that he had leaked sensitive information in his intimate interaction.
A bench led by Chief Justice of India, H L Dattu expressed astonishment at the course of action followed by the Navy. Deeming the action shocking to the conscience of the court, the Supreme Court quashed the appeal filed by the Centre against the Armed Forces Tribunal’s decision to overturn Commander Kalyan Kumar’s discharge.
The bench also consisting of Justices S J Mukhopadhya and A K Mishra held that the Armed Forces Tribunal was completely justified in setting aside the Commander’s sacking. The bench refused to accept the arguments of Attorney General MukulRohatgi, who argued that the action of Commander Kalyan Kumar in getting intimate with a foreign lady by exchanging explicit materials amounted to conduct unbecoming an officer.
Further, the Supreme Court observed that apart from the exchange of explicit messages and photographs between 2 adult persons on the internet, there was no evidence on record to suggest that the affair between the officer and the foreign national had in any way compromised national security.
The Court noted further that it is impossible to keep yourself isolated from one’s neighbours, fellow residents or even foreign nationals married residing in Indian society. Since they are a part of Indian society, one does not have an option of not mixing with them. Thus, interacting with foreigner cannot be considered a ‘taboo’.
The Court further berated the Attorney General asking him the quintessential question, whether the matter warranted a Supreme Court inquiry. The bench also requested the Attorney General to provide the Court with a satisfactory answer as to what interests were the Navy and Centre trying to protect by taking such a disproportionate action in a case which involved merely the exchange of explicit messages between 2 adults, which is of no consequence to national security. The question of misconduct or compromise with national security never arose, according to the Court.
The deprecation of Navy’s decision to sack Commander Kalyan Kumar has the potential to cause much embarrassment to the Indian Navy considering the whole basis behind the discharge seemed superfluous in the first place.
by Siddhartha Singh.