New Delhi/Leh, Jul 10: The bodies of three of the four army personnel, who died after their mountaineering expedition team was struck by an avalanche last October at a height of over 18,300 feet in Ladakh, have been recovered amid challenging conditions, according to defence sources.

The bodies of Havildar Rohit Kumar, Havildar Thakur Bahadur Ale and Naik Gautam Rajbanshi were trapped deep within a crevasse and lay buried under thick layers of ice and large volumes of snow for the past nearly nine months.

A defence source said their bodies were recovered over the last one week.

The body of Lance Naik Stanzin Targais was recovered soon after the incident.

In July 2023, a 38-member expedition team from the Gulmarg-based High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS), an elite training institution under the Army, had set out to conquer Mt. Kun in the Union Territory of Ladakh. The expedition started on October 1 and the team hoped to conquer the peak by October 13, sources in the defence establishment said.

"The treacherous terrain and unpredictable weather in this glaciated region posed immense challenges. While fixing ropes on a snow wall, the team was struck by a sudden avalanche on October 8 at a height of over 18,300 ft, between Camp 2 and Camp 3 on the Fariabad Glacier. Four members were caught in the deadly slide," the source said.

The expedition team made all endeavours to rescue those who fell in the crevasse and got buried under large volume of snow and "laid down their lives in true spirit of adventure and quest", the sources said.

But, in the Army's spirit of 'Leaving No Man Behind', a team of mountaineers of the HAWS then undertook a heroic mission to recover the mortal remains of their fallen comrades, they said.

"Operation RTG (Rohit, Thakur, Gautam)" that sought to retrieve their bodies was launched on June 18.

The mission was named in honour of the missing soldiers and the rescue expedition consisted of 88 expert mountaineers.

The sources said a road head camp was established about 40 km short of Khumbathang for deposition of specialised mountaineering and rescue equipment, special clothing, survival kits, tents and meals.

Two helicopters were also placed on standby to ferry the mortal remains of the bravehearts and for evacuation of the rescue team, if needed.

They said a base camp was established at a distance of around 13 km from the road head at a height of about 14,790 feet. Maj Gen Bruce Fernandez, Commandant HAWS, stationed himself at the base camp, overseeing the rescue efforts.

Brig S S Shekhawat, the Deputy Commandant of HAWS, personally led the search operation, emphasising the mission's importance.

"The incident site was approximately 3 km from the base camp. The rescue team faced formidable challenges at an altitude of 18,300 feet. They established a forward base camp on June 25, with two intermediate camps for acclimatisation. Equipped with satellite phones, special tents, and advanced tools, and supported by dedicated helicopters stationed 20 km away, every precaution was taken to ensure the safety of the search party," a defence source said.

The bodies of the three personnel have been handed over to their families with "full military honours", bringing closure for the loved ones, who had waited to bid the final farewell to them, they said.

Sharing details about the recovery of the bodies, the sources said the first significant breakthrough during the operation came when the mortal remains of Havildar Kumar (Dogra Scouts) were found at about 30 feet of snow and ice in the crevasse on July 4. The mortal remains were transported to Kumbathang by helicopter.

With renewed resolve, the team, braving challenges posed by extremities of cold and terrain, went 10 feet deeper in the crevasse, where mortal remains of Havildar Ale (Gorkha Rifles) were recovered on July 7. Search continued for the mortal remains of Naik Rajbanshi (Assam Regiment), as the team's resolve to bring their comrades home remained unwavering, they said.

The mission's aim was finally accomplished on July 8, as the bodies of the three soldiers were recovered and no team member was left behind, the sources added.

Brig Shekhawat is no stranger to formidable challenges, he has climbed Mt. Everest thrice and been awarded the Kirti Chakra for one of the toughest operations conducted by the Indian Army, the sources said.

However, he described 'Operation RTG' as the most demanding mission of his life.

"Dug for nine days straight, 10-12 hours every day at 18,700 feet," he was quoted as saying by a defence source.

"Tons of snow and ice was removed. The grueling effort, both physically and mentally, tested the resilience of the entire team," Shekhawat said.

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Mumbai, Jul 22: Allegations of ill-treatment by a man against his own family members do not fall under the ambit of cruelty against a woman in her matrimonial home, the Bombay High Court has said.

The HC made the observation in an order dated July 18, a copy of which was made available on Monday, while quashing a March 2013 FIR (first information report) lodged by a woman against her parents-in-law, brother and sisters-in-law -- residents of Mumbai -- alleging cruelty and harassment.

A division bench, in the order, noted that peculiarly the woman did not make any allegations against her husband, and described the entire case as nothing but a "complete abuse of the process of law" and the Indian Penal Code (IPC) section related to cruelty to women in matrimonial home.

The bench of Justices A S Gadkari and Neela Gokhale maintained the FIR was a "proxy litigation" lodged by the man through his wife against his own family members to settle a property dispute.

The court noted this was a "peculiar case" where the woman has alleged her in-laws of committing an offence under section 498A of the IPC without a single allegation against her husband.

Section 498A pertains to harassment of a woman by her husband or any relative of the husband.

The court, in its order, said the allegations of harassment and cruelty made by the woman against the petitioners are "quite general and vague".

"Undoubtedly, she (complainant woman) has given a list of incidents of cruelty in the FIR. However, the instances are also of a nature that do not fulfil the ingredients of section 498(A) of the IPC," the HC observed.

Some of the alleged ill-treatment is aimed against the husband and not even the complainant herself, the bench pointed out.

"Allegations of ill-treatment by a man against his own family members do not fall within the scope and ambit of section 498(A) of the IPC," the court clarified.

The woman, in her complaint, had alleged her in-laws used to pick fights with her husband on petty issues to drive him and her out of the house.

She further claimed her in-laws did not allow her to use their kitchen appliances, barred her from accessing their residence's terrace and garden, and would ask the domestic help not to do her household work.

The court said the present case was a "complete abuse of the process of law."

"The FIR is nothing but a shot fired by the man from his wife's shoulder to espouse his own cause of his interest in his father's property. We, thus, have no hesitation in holding that the FIR is filed with an ulterior motive for wreaking personal vengeance on the petitioners," it maintained.

The judges were critical of the gross abuse of IPC section 498A.

"The police machinery has been used for realizing private interest of the complainant and her husband. The present case is a classic example of gross abuse of section 498(A) of the IPC," the bench noted.

"Surprisingly, these allegations against the petitioners (in-laws) are made by the complainant-wife at the behest of her own husband. Although Section 498A envisages cruelty inflicted upon a woman by a relative of the husband, it is rare to see such allegations aimed at the relatives dehors (without) any accusation against the husband," the court observed.

The petitioners' advocate had claimed the FIR was an outcome of a property dispute among the family members.

The court pointed out that the history of civil litigation between the couple and the man's family demonstrates his personal interest in settling scores in respect of a property.