In a first of its kind case, an Army Court of Inquiry has used technical evidence gathered through detailed analysis of phone call records, mobile tower locations and WhatsApp messages to find an Infantry Colonel blameworthy of having illicit relations with the wife of another Colonel.
The Court of Inquiry has also taken note of the deposition of the complainant husband that the Colonel of the Regiment, an officer of the rank of Lt General, threatened him to stay away from his estranged wife after he brought the matter to his notice. The Court of Inquiry is learnt to have noted that despite best efforts, it could not secure the attendance of the Colonel of the Regiment as a witness and had to conclude the inquiry after verbal directions from the superior authorities. But the inquiry panel is learnt to have recommended the holding of a separate inquiry into the involvement of the senior officer in the case.
Intriguingly, the presiding officer of the inquiry, Brig NK Dabas, was removed when the inquiry was still in progress and some senior officers were expected to be summoned as witnesses. ‘Stealing the affection of brother’s wife’ is a serious offence under the Army Act Section 69, to be read in conjunction with Section 497 of the IPC, and is punishable by five years rigorous imprisonment.
The complainant Colonel, who was commanding an infantry battalion in Jammu and Kashmir, had made a complaint through a demi official letter dated August 13, 2015 addressed to the then Brigade Commander with a copy to General Officer Commanding 19 Infantry Division, General Officer Commanding 15 Corps, Director General National Cadet Corps, General Officer Commanding in Chief, Northern Command, Chief of the Army Staff General Dalbir Singh and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.
In this letter, he had alleged that another officer of the rank of Colonel, who was from his battalion and under whom he had served for several years in the past and was now posted in NCC, had been sending indecent messages to his wife which were sexually explicit in nature and that he had reasons to believe that both were involved in illicit relations. Based on the complaint, a Court of Inquiry was ordered vide Headquarters Delhi Area in 2015.
The Court of Inquiry found that both the Colonels were from the same battalion which the complainant had joined in 1999 while the accused officer was the adjutant of the unit. Since then they had served together in many locations including Chandimandir.
The inquiry noted that the complainant Colonel had synchronized the mobile number of his wife with his laptop after seeing the messages being exchanged by his wife and the accused Colonel, it became clear to him that the two were having an extra marital affair. The inquiry has noted that in all cases where such allegations are made, it is impossible to get an eye witness or conclusive evidence as such liaisons take place with utmost secrecy within the confines of four walls and are kept closely guarded secret by the parties involved. This case being exception to the rule so the Court of Inquiry carefully analysed all circumstantial and technical evidence, as available, with aim of finding the whole truth in the case.
One of the clinching pieces of evidence cited by the inquiry was that the wife of the complainant sent an SMS to her friend in December 2014 stating, “that she was waiting for January 4, 2015, imagine a wife waiting for her husband to leave”. The Court of Inquiry said that it finds it uncommon for any normal Army wife to have such feelings for her husband, especially while he was posted at high risk counter insurgency infested operational area where he might have lost his life or limb,”.