The Indian Air Force (IAF) has dismissed one of its officers from service following a General Court Martial against him for bribery.
Wing Commander Alok Kumar Thakur was the counter intelligence officer at Yelahanka air force station in Bangalore, when he was assigned to logistical duties in the run up to the Aero India air show in February, 2011. His responsibilities included a a role in assigning exhibit space to vendors at the air show.
In March, 2011, the Deccan Herald reported ‘Wg Cdr Thakur was allegedly caught red-handed accepting Rs 20,000 in marked currency notes from a decoy which the Department of Defence Productions and Supplies had employed to lay the trap.’ “The trap was set up after allegations surfaced that Wg Cdr Thakur was seen accepting money on the first two days of Aero India from foreign exhibitors. According to preliminary investigations, he is suspected to have collected three lakh euros,” the report added.
The newspaper later reported, that Thakur allegedly took INR 20,000 (around 250 euros) from Posina Venkat Rao, representative of French aircraft manufacturer, Dassault, in India. At the time, the French company’s Rafale was competing in the IAF tender for 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) against five other aircraft, Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin’s F-16, Saab Gripen, Eurofighter and the MiG-35. All the aircraft were present at the show for static and flight demonstrations, except for the Russian aircraft.
Dassault’s Rafale and the Eurofighter were shortlisted by the IAF in April, 2011. And the French aircraft was declared the winner in January, 2012. Although contract negotiations are still to be completed, the order is now estimated to be worth around USD 20 billion.
Rao was later reported to have been barred from entry from Air Headquarters in New Delhi. At the time, The Times of India reported that it was ‘Rao who blew the whistle’ on Thakur and said, “The air force is irked by the fact that Rao kept it in the dark about its officer asking for bribe and instead got a senior IAS officer to expose the corruption. A senior officer claimed Rao deliberately didn’t follow known procedures, which was to inform IAF senior officers. It’s also possible that IAF establishment didn’t inspire Rao’s confidence.”
Thakur was convicted by the General Court Martial on four of the eight charges against him, in April, 2012. He made representations and appeals to the IAF, which ordered reassembly of the General Court Martial last September.
In an petition to the Karnataka High Court, Thakur claimed that the confirming authority, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Norman Anil Kumar Browne, directed the General Court Martial to record the brief reasons for its findings. Thakur asked the court to set aside the findings of the General Court Martial and order it to consider the representations made by him to it.
Thakur claimed that the matter could not have been sent back to the General Court Martial only for the purpose of recording its reasons in support of its findings and that an order upholding the findings of the General Court Martial but remitting the matter to seek substitution of reasons for the findings was unlawful.
The court, however, ruled that the proper forum with jurisdiction to hear the matter was the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT).
Thakur then approached the Chandigarh AFT last April, but the AFT dismissed his petition in May, giving him time to appeal to the Supreme Court. Thakur filed a petition in the Supreme Court, which is due to be heard later this month.
However, the IAF has gone ahead with the order to dismiss him before the hearing.