The Indian constitution guarantees justice to all, but only few get the opportunity to vouch for that. There’s no denying that the proceedings of judicial cases in Indian courts can go on for several decades and probability is that you’ll get old and weak and die, and then your soul would have to hurl around the court for justice to be served (cue: 20 million pending cases in Indian district courts).
But luckily or unluckily, such wasn’t a case for 6th Rajput Battalion’s Second Lieutenant SS Chauhan. Chauhan’s story is one where justice did get serve, but after a wait and struggle of 26 years.
Corruption, Diligence & Sentence
Hailing from my hometown, Mainpuri in the state of Uttar Pradesh, Second Lieutenant SS Chauhan’s life came to an utter disrupt when he was court martialled on November 4, 1991.
The case goes back to April 11, 1990 when during a search operation in Srinagar, Chauhan with his fellow brothers-in-arms recovered 147 gold biscuits weighing around 27.5 kg. Chauhan’s senior official, Colonel KRS Panwar pressurized him not to declare the gold in documents and maintain silence to conceal the recovery from Government.
Later, upon realizing that the gold biscuits were in fact embezzled by his senior officers, Chauhan filed a complaint to the Parliament’s Committee of Petitions. A separate inquiry was also launched by the Army HQ.
The result – Chauhan’s court-martial that resulted in seven-year imprisonment on charges of being a deserter and mentally unstable individual.
The Price Of Being Honest
Split between honoring his seniors and following the path of truth, Chauhan placed his nation as his utmost priority and courageously filed a complaint against his senior officials. The price of being loyal to his nation didn’t come cheap.
As soon as the news of Chauhan’s renegade reached his superiors, he was viciously attacked in his tent when some army officers tried choking him while covering him with a blanket.
The proceedings of lodging the complaint didn’t turn out to be in his favor as well. On November 4th, 1991 SS Chauhan was stripped-off of his belt and head gear and was disowned by the army. It might not come as a big deal to many of us non-army background folks but being discharged from defense services after a court martial is one of the most dishonoring and humiliating incidents in a soldier’s life.
Undying Love For Serving The Nation
They say, “You can take the man out of the army, but not the army out of the man”, which is exactly what happened when Chauhan returned to his hometown. Already struggling with the constant abashment from the people, Chauhan’s courage was never something he needed to muster.
The diligent army-man found another way to serve his nation while continuously battling for his struggle for justice in the court. In 2014, SS Chauhan opened a school in his district. With the country flag’s three prima colors on his school wall, Chauhan now operates a school for children in his district.
Without losing faith in his nation and himself, Chauhan and his family fought the battle for justice for 26 long years. And alas! They won.
On January 20th, Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) ordered the defense ministry to pay INR 4 crores as compensation as well as reinstate second lieutenant SS Chauhan and provide him promotional avenues up to the stage of lieutenant colonel for the purpose of arrears of salary, pension benefits and rank.
Although while concluding the case, the court observed the petitioners mental pain and suffering, but does it really justify how an officer in his prime was falsely convicted in a case that nearly ended his career.
I mean if hadn’t been for Chauhan’s persistence and courage, who knows, even his case would’ve been just another one of the dusty, stacked-up files of those pending 20 million cases.
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