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Army chief didn't want to pursue bribe offer case: Antony

Delhi,Defence/Security,Politics, Tue, 27 Mar 2012 IANS

New Delhi, March 27 (IANS) Defence Minister A.K. Antony Tuesday admitted that army chief Gen. V.K. Singh informed him about Lt. Gen. (retd) Tejinder Singh offering a bribe of Rs.14 crore, but said there was no written complaint, as he did not want to pursue the matter.


However, after the bribe offer was reported by the media, Antony said he ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe.



Antony told parliament he would investigate the army chief's allegations and was ready to cancel any contract if there was corruption.



The minister had Monday ordered a CBI inquiry into the allegations after the army chief shared it with the media.



'He (army chief) told me Lt. Gen. Tejinder Singh offered him bribe but he told me he did not want to pursue it. No written complaint was given. Till today I have not received any written complaint from him and after yesterday's (Monday) report, I have ordered a CBI inquiry,' Antony told the Rajya Sabha.



Lt. Gen. Singh, a former Defence Intelligence Agency chief, however, claimed if such an incident had indeed happened, then the matter should have been investigated at that time itself.



'If army chief had reported the matter to (the defence minister) and if this had happened, then he should have definitely at that time investigated the matter under the law,' said Tejinder Singh, who filed a defamation case against the army chief in a Delhi court.



Meanwhile, Antony said: 'From day one as defence minister, I have cleared my position that I am for modernisation of forces but will not tolerate corruption. I have nothing to hide and will say nothing but the truth.'



He assured the house that he would go to any extent to probe the army chief's allegation.



'Will take action, nobody will be spared. Will cancel all contracts if any corruption is found. If I am wrong, punish me. But I have done my best,' he said.



Sending shockwaves through the defence establishment, the army chief had disclosed that he was offered a kickback of Rs.14 crore in his office by a retired defence officer for clearing a tranche of 600 sub-standard vehicles.



Though the general did not name Tatra, manufactured by state-owned Bharat Earth Movers Ltd (BEML) under licence from Czech-based manufacturer, it is widely believed that he was referring to it.



He had also said he informed Antony immediately about the bribe offer.



Antony's assurance to parliament comes a day after the Bharatiya Janata Party said the minister's indecisiveness could be one of the reasons why the army chief spoke to the media.



BJP leaders Arun Jaitley and S.S. Ahluwalia said in the Rajya Sabha Tuesday that they had no doubt about the minister's honesty, but asked him to clarify why such a charge was being levelled after over a year and why no action was taken.



'Over the last few months, the facts that are tumbling out make the situation curiouser and curiouser. There is civilian control over the armed forces, and such confrontations need to be avoided,' said Jaitley.



The BJP leader said Antony should have made a distinction between 'substantiated charge' and 'baseless charge' and should have got the matter investigated.



'...putting blinkers on and not getting the charge inquired at all means that we are learning to live with corruption,' Jaitley said.



'We are completely with you in curbing corruption in the defence forces,' Jaitley told Antony.



'But please maintain a judicious balance between curbing corruption and act on defence preparedness and modernisation of defence forces.'



Meanwhile, the CBI is preparing to ask Gen. V.K. Singh for a formal complaint in connection with his allegation.



Agency sources said any action will be taken only after getting a formal complaint from the army chief, though the defence ministry orders for the probe had been received already.


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