Tribunal upholds dismissal of Navy man accused of molestation

Holding that an identification parade is not necessary for an accused who the victim may have regularly seen, the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) recently dismissed a petition filed by a former naval personnel accused of molesting at least two schoolgirls.

Sukhlal Yadav (40) had challenged his dismissal from service, after he was found guilty of molesting two girls from the Kendra Vidyalaya in Visakhapatnam. Yadav had filed a petition in the Bombay High Court which was later transferred to the tribunal.

A 13-year-old student from the school had complained to her teachers that Yadav had misbehaved with her on November 23, 2005. Three other girls came forward and said that in the previous months, they had either bad experiences with Yadav. The allegation against Yadav was that he used "criminal force" against the girl and "pressed her upper body part" .

Yadav said that no identification parade was conducted before pressing charges against him and dismissing him from service on August 1, 2006. The AFT, however, observed, "The petitioner had been regularly visiting the institution in question and the victims had seen him on several occasions. Therefore, an identification parade was also not required."

Yadav also contended that he was not accorded the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses. The tribunal, however, said that when given the opportunity he had refused to avail it and could not have then complained of "violation of principle of natural justice and fair play".

Ministry of Defence's lawyer Advait Sethna cited a judgment of the Calcutta High Court. "It is incorrect to equate the width of natural justice principles which are made available to a person holding a civil post and a person who is working with the armed forces. This is required in order to achieve the twin purposes of ensuring proper discharge of duties and maintenance of discipline of such forces," the tribunal quoted from the judgment.

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