Ex-Army chief V K Singh, along with four senior serving officers, has been made an accused in a criminal defamation case filed by Lt General (retd) Tejinder Singh, who has accused them of misusing their official positions, power and authority to defame him.
Metropolitan magistrate Jay Thareja asked the former Army chief and others to appear in court on July 20 even as he rejected Tejinder Singh’s charge of criminal conspiracy against them.
Perhaps, it is the first instance where a former Army chief has been made an accused in a case. Others who have been summoned are Vice-chief of Army Staff S K Singh, Lt Gen B S Thakur (DGMI), Major General S L Narshiman (additional director general of public information) and Lt Col Hitten Sawhney. They have all been accused by Tejinder Singh of defaming his reputation by issuing a press release where they accused him of offering Rs 14 crore as bribe for facilitating the purchase of the allegedly sub-standard Tatra trucks by the Army.
In its three-page order, the court detailed the “complicity” of Gen V K Singh in the issuance of the March 5 press release in which Tejinder Singh was accused of offering Rs 14 crore as bribe to the then Army chief for clearing a deal for 600 Tatra trucks, was ‘prima facie deductible’.
The magistrate said the “defamatory information” about the alleged bribe offer could not have been passed on to the other co-accused if the then Army chief would not have told them about it.
“The complicity of respondent number 1 (V K Singh) in the publication of the press release dated March 5, 2012 is prima facie deductible from the fact that he alone had knowledge about the offer of bribe made by the complainant and without him having told the respondents number 4 and 5 (Narshiman and Sawhney) or any other person about the offer of bribe made by the complainant, the defamatory information about the complainant offering a bribe would not have percolated down to the respondents no 4 and 5,” the court said.
It also referred to the May 4, 2012, letter issued by under secretary of the ministry of defence in which it was mentioned that the March 5 press release was issued with the approval from the “highest levels in the Army”.
The press release accusing Tejinder Singh of bribery was seen as part of the factional fight the Army’s brass got embroiled in over the failed bid of the ex-Army chief to get his date of birth revised. Gen V K Singh alleged that he was targeted because of his campaign against corruption in the Army, and mentioned Tejinder Singh’s alleged attempt to tempt him as a case in point.
He said that he had informed the defence minister A K Antony of the bribery bid. Antony corroborated the account, but said that Gen V K Singh did not wish to pursue the matter. The court case has confirmed fears that the feuding in the top echelons may continue after Gen V K Singh’s retirement.