Chennai: A Major General who was involved in the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) operation in Sri Lanka and subsequently convicted on charges of corruption has secured relief from the Madras High Court, which set aside his conviction.
Major General A.K. Gupta was part of the team that made arrangements for essential commodities for the IPKF soldiers sent to Sri Lanka in 1987 during the Rajiv Gandhi Government, aiming to stop the civil war between the LTTE and the Sri Lanka Army. The mission was not successful, and the last contingent of IPKF was withdrawn from Sri Lanka in 1990 during the V.P. Singh regime.
Major General Gupta was accused of indulging in corruption in the purchase of tinned meat (kheema) for the IPKF soldiers during 1987-88.
A Court of Inquiry was instituted by the Army against the officer, which found him guilty and sent him to face the General Court Martial. However, in June 1990, while being transported by train to Ahmed Nagar in Maharashtra, Major General Gupta managed to escape from custody. He was eventually traced in Delhi in October that year. However, by that time, the court martial proceedings of the Army had lapsed due to a “time bar.” Subsequently, a Colonel lodged a complaint with the CBI to prosecute Major General Gupta.
CBI court convicted Major Gupta in 2013
The officer was accused of siphoning off money during the procurement of tinned kheema and making other purchases, including orders for tea leaves and tinned milk powder. However, the CBI filed the chargesheet in the case only in December 2001, holding the officer responsible for alleged corruption in respect of the kheema consignment alone. The trial went on for years, and Major General Gupta was convicted by the CBI Court in 2013. Another officer, Lt Colonel S.S. Kadian, was also convicted along with him.
Both officers appealed against their convictions in the High Court. However, Kadian died during the pendency of the appeal.
Passing orders on the appeal, Justice Jayachandran observed that the trial court had taken into account the fact that the officer had escaped from custody. "Suspicion based on the subsequent conduct of the accused and acceptance of the prosecution version without sufficient material to corroborate the same warrant an interference with the decision of the trial court," the judge said and acquitted the officer.