New Delhi: Former Adjutant General Lt Gen Ashwani Kumar (Retd) has not ridiculed disabled soldiers or violated any service rules, the Indian Army has said in response to a legal notice sent by a retired officer who threatened to file a Rs 1-crore defamation suit against Kumar.
Lt Col Niraj Bakshi (Retd) had sent a legal notice to Kumar over his “disparaging remarks” about the disability pension during an interview with a TV channel last month before his retirement. Kumar had sought to delink what he termed lifestyle diseases from conditions or ailments that make personnel eligible for a disability pension.
Bakshi is a beneficiary of the disability pension.
In a legal response to Bakshi’s counsel, the Army said he is “liable to be proceeded against for making such disparaging remarks against a high ranking uniformed officer”.
“It is… false and mischievous to suggest that his statement was irresponsible and in an abandoned manner,” said the response.
ThePrint had reported on 6 November that Bakshi had said the former AG’s views were against the expressed statement of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, statutory provisions, and judgments issued by high courts and the Supreme Court.
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In its response, the office of the AG at the Army Headquarters in Delhi said it had gone through the transcripts of Kumar’s interview.
It reveals Kumar “repeatedly reiterated that disability benefits arising in the course of discharge of official duties, were absolutely fair”, said the response.
An adjutant general is the head of a critical wing of the Army that takes care of administrative and legal affairs.
The response added that taxation exemption on disability benefits was also referred to as fair by Kumar. The disability benefits, which were occasioned in the discharge of official duties, could be distinguished.
“However, he suggested that there were cases where soldiers were drawing disability pension but were performing all the function, then where was the question of disability. The statement made by Lt. Gen. Ashwani Kumar (Retd.), the then Adjutant General, Indian Army was clearly in consonance with the rules of disability benefits which are extended only to deserving persons,” it said.
‘Not against policy’
Speaking about the alleged violations of policy, the Army said Kumar had given the interview in his official capacity and in accordance with policies.
“It is informed that Lt. Gen. Ashwani Kumar (now Retd.) was a serving officer on 31/10/2019. Further, not even a single statement made by Lt. Gen. Ashwani Kumar (Retd.), the then Adjutant General, Indian Army was either against the Media Policy nor in contravention of any judgment of any Hon’ble Court on the issue of disability benefit nor was the same with reference to a matter which was sub-judice.”
On the issue of defamation, it said Kumar was not even aware whether or not Bakshi is in receipt of disability benefits.
“And therefore no direct or indirect insinuation was levelled by Lt. Gen. Ashwani Kumar (Retd.)… There is therefore no question of… (Kumar) having either directly or indirectly caused any damage to the reputation of your client and/or brought down his prestige,” it said.
“The disbelief in respect of your clients reputation/prestige is therefore of his own imagination and creation for which he himself is responsible.”
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