In an incident which has raised eyebrows within the naval community, a young woman lieutenant, with a dream of making it as a naval architect, cut short her career in the Indian Navy and walked away on July 31. In doing so, the navy also ensured that she ‘compensated’ the government by re-paying the training cost that was incurred on her. Her desire to leave came at the fag end of a battle she believed she had lost against her senior who, she alleged, had physically, verbally and mentally harassed her.
Incidentally, during the course of her complaint, she was joined by another officer and a civilian lady, all of whom made allegations against the same officer. However, of the five charges leveled and investigated, the navy stated that the prosecution could only ensure that one charge stuck for which the officer was punished with 18 months forfeiture of seniority and other consequential penalties.
The complainant, a commissioned officer under the Short Service Commission (SSC) had enrolled in the naval architecture course at the Indian Naval Academy (INA), Ezhimala. This branch deals with designing of ships. According to a source, “While she was undergoing her training at the Shipwright school in Vizag where the navy’s Eastern Naval Command (ENC) is located, her senior and the officer-in-charge, a Commander rank officer, began displaying advances towards her which were resisted.” It was also learnt that in her complaint, the officer had recounted specific instances where physical, verbal and mental harassment took place. These incidents allegedly occurred between December 2012 and June 2013, while she was in Vizag.
Based on her complaint, the ENC had appointed a One Man Inquiry (OMI) followed by a Board of Inquiry (BoI) and General Court Martial which began on July 5 this year and was concluded in 20 days in Visakhapatnam.
Sources close to the complainant stated that the impact of these incidents was so deep that in February the complainant had even attempted to commit suicide while in a naval school in Delhi. “Over the last few months, she had hopes from the navy as the GCM progressed, but her charges were not proven,” said a source.
The complainant had decided to quit the force after making her point earlier this year. However, after being persuaded by the navy that the case was getting weakened by her absence, she stayed on. She was subsequently even provided with a female prosecutor by the navy.
Based on the complaint of the young woman officer against Cdr Anand Bhuptani, a ‘One Man Inquiry’ was conducted to investigate the matter. Subsequently, the officer was charged on five counts and tried by the court martial. However, based on available facts and circumstances, the officer was found culpable on one charge under Section 54(2) (Cruelty and Conduct unbecoming the character of an officer) of the Navy Act 1957.
It is intimated that the trial by court martial is a type of Naval tribunal (akin to any other court) and charges are required to be proved beyond reasonable doubt.
The training charges were recovered at the time of retirement as per extant government provisions. A proposal has however been forwarded to MoD for the waiver of the training charges. On approval, the amount will be refunded.