New Delhi: The Defence Minister has reportedly ordered a CBI inquiry into the Rs 14-crore bribe that the Army chief says he was offered in exchange for clearing the purchase of 600 sub-standard vehicles. General VK Singh said that in 2010, six months into his tenure, a retired Army officer offered him the money, and that he shared the information immediately with the Defence Minister AK Antony.
General Singh disclosed the details of the bribe in an interview with The Hindu newspaper. The allegations have been seized by the Opposition to attack the government in Parliament. Both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha were adjourned. The government is expected to make a statement later today on the controversy. The BJP, while seeking details from the government, also pointed out that the Army chief should have filed a case against the man who offered him the kickback. (Watch: Bribe charge - Army chief tells all)
Sources tell NDTV that the alleged bribe was offered by Tejinder Singh, who retired as a Lieutenant General and had served as a chief of the Defence Intelligence Agency. He has also been allotted a flat in the Adarsh Society, a high-rise building in Mumbai whose apartments were intended for war veterans and widows, but were instead given to politicians, bureaucrats and defence officers. Earlier this month, a press release by the army named him for offering bribes on behalf a company called Tatra Vetra. The retired officer has, according to some reports, denied the allegations and threatened a lawsuit.
The army chief was allegedly asked to sanction the army's purchase of a new consignment of vehicles from Tatra Vetra. The offer of the bribe was made to him in his office, say sources.
The government and the chief will now have to answer whether the company was blacklisted once the bribe was offered, and why it has taken so long to commission a formal inquiry.
The Congress today suggested that the Army chief's own actions were wanting. "If someone offered him a bribe, as a government servant, he should have filed a case against the person under the Prevention of Corruption Act," said the Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari.
The Congress-led coalition at the Centre has been entangled in a maze of financial scandals, with the opposition accusing it of serving as a "government of scams" and of creating an environment that lends itself to graft as the Standard Operating Procedure.
"He was offering a bribe to me, to the Army Chief. He told me that people had taken money before me and they will take money after me," the General said to the newspaper about the lobbyist.
In January, General Singh became the first serving military chief to take the government to court. He wanted the Defence Ministry to accept that he was born in 1951 and not 1950 - records with the army list both years. The Defence Ministry had refused the General's claim, stating that he had accepted many promotions on the basis of his seniority as established by the documents that showed he was born in 1950. The chief withdrew his petition in the Supreme Court after the judges through their remarks indicated they would not side with his claim. He is scheduled to retire at the end of May.