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23 more Kargil cases sent to CBI for probe
S.S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, April 13
After Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee came under attack from various UPA allies and even from within the Congress for purported exoneration of former Defence Minister George Fernandes about the purchases made during the Kargil war, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in a fresh affidavit before the Supreme Court said it has decided to refer 23 more cases out of the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) report for probe to the CBI, including the purchase of “coffins”.

These 23 cases mentioned in the fresh affidavit, filed in the Supreme Court Registry today are in addition to the hand held thermal imagers (Rs 41.95 crore) and terminally guided munitions (Krasnapol) (Rs 151 crore) - referred to the agency earlier along with the three other matters (not related to Kargil) and the Tehelka expose case, as had been stated in the first affidavit.

The agency will now be investigating a total of 25 of the Kargil related cases, three other matters — T-90 S Tanks, Armoured Recovery Vehicle and Up-Gunning of 130 mm M-46 Filed Guns to 155mm caliber, finding mention in the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) report — and the Tehelka expose case, scrutiny of the two affidavits indicated.

Among the three important additions for the CBI probe from the CAG report are the purchase of ammunition for T-72 tanks (Rs 116.83 crore), other ammunition (Rs 402.76 crore) and aluminium caskets for carrying the bodies of jawans (coffins Rs 6.55 crore) over which Fernandes had came under attack from Congress President Sonia Gandhi before and during the last Lok Sabha election.

The fresh affidavit was filed by MoD Under Secretary R. Chaturvedi, who has been now mentioned as Officer-in-Charge of the case in place of another Under Secretary M.M. Singh, who had filed the earlier affidavit, which stated that modified procedure issued on June 21, 1999 by the then Defence Minister for expeditious procurement of equipment did not supercede the prescribed procedure for normal procurement actions… and “these (in) no way violated any of the financial rules of the government or the defence procurement procedure, 1992”.

The affidavit said the other 20 cases of purchases totalling nearly Rs 707 crore, also decided to be sent to the CBI now by the MoD related to those items “which are yet to be vetted by the CAG”. The MoD had sent its Action Taken Notes (ATNs) on the 35 items to CAG over which it had raised certain questions. CAG’s 7A report of 2001 pertaining to the purchases during Kargil, had raised a question mark about the “delayed” procurement, payment of a higher price and also buying certain items not required. It pointed out that this had resulted in payment of amount in “excess” of Rs 2,000 crore by the government.

The 20 matters, which the CAG has yet to process after receiving the ATNs of the ministry, but decided to be referred to the CBI by the MoD, include bullet-proof jackets, universal variable time fuses, illuminating ammunition for 155mm guns, special ammunition for 40mm L-70 guns, multi-purpose boots, automatic grenade launchers, AK-14 ammunition, gloves, spares for 155mm guns, Kolos tyres, spares for combat engineer tractors, surveillance radar, special woollen socks, sniper rifles, charging/generating sets, underslung cargo nets, 155mm red phosphorous ammunition, tyres for 155mm towing vehicles, sleeping bags, special clothing and mountaineering equipment.

The affidavit said, “The government is now exploring whether the facts reveal a prima facie case of commission of criminal offences under law as heavy financial losses in excess of Rs 2,000 crore (as per CAG report) were caused, in addition to the fact that the equipment did not materialise at the time of its need”.

It said the government was committed to taking “strict action against officers/authorities, including the former Defence Minister, if it is found that the excuse of Kargil was taken to make purchases with a motive of personal benefit in violation of the rules”.

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