M A I N   N E W S

Brigadier gets 2-yr RI in Tehelka case
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Patiala, October 14
A General Court Martial (GCM) today found Brigadier Iqbal Singh guilty of professional impropriety and personal misconduct in the Tehelka case and sentenced him to two years of rigorous imprisonment besides cashiering him from service. The sentence, announced in open court, is subject to confirmation by the Chief of the Army Staff.

The court found him guilty of all three counts of accepting money, enjoying the hospitality of wine and a call girl and violating provisions pertaining to contact with foreign nationals. The seven-member GCM was presided over by the GOC-1 Armoured Division, Major-Gen Pardeep Khanna, with Col Rajinder Tripathi as the Judge-Advocate.

This was the third and last trial associated with the Tehelka expose, which had rocked the nation four years ago. Two other officers, Major-Gen P.S.K. Choudhary and Col Anil Sahgal, who were also trapped in the sting operations, were found guilty of demanding and accepting bribes by separate military courts earlier this year. Both were cashiered from service and were awarded one-year and four-year rigorous imprisonment, respectively.

It may be recalled that in March 2001, tehelka.com had released video tapes, shot secretly by their operatives posing as arms dealers. The tapes showed senior politicians, Army officers and bureaucrats allegedly demanding and accepting bribes, including material gifts and the services of call girls.

Under Section 69 of the Army Act, Brigadier Iqbal was charged with committing a civil offence by misusing his official position to accept illegal gratification.

On November 5, 2000, while serving as Deputy Director-General, Procurement and Progressive Organisation at Army Headquarters, he had allegedly accepted Rs 50,000 from Samuel Mathews, a representative of West End International to promote the interests of the firm.

Under Section 45 of the Act, he was charged with conduct unbecoming of an officer. He had allegedly accepted the hospitality of wine and women offered to him by a Tehelka team in a Delhi hotel.

Under Section 63, he was charged with not complying with provisions of the Army’s regulations concerning contact with foreign nationals and representatives of foreign firms while interacting with Samuel Mathews, Annirudhha Bahal and Lieut-Col V.P. Sayal (retd).

The court also gave detailed reasons for convicting Brigadier Iqbal on each charge. The court observed that there was no merit in the defence’s contention that the accused had spurned the money offered by the arms dealers as he continued to interact with them on matters pertaining to arms deals. The court also observed that the accused’s contention, that his drink was spiked while he was in the call girl’s company, did not hold much water as he had three drinks and not one.

Further, the accused had not been medically examined and nor did he lodge any complaint with the competent authority in this regard.

“During the trial, the prosecution primarily relied on eye-witnesses, including Mathews and Bahal, who had physically executed the operation, in support of their contentions,” prosecution counsel Arvind Moudgil said. “The video tapes, which contained footage of the accused, were also played before the court to corroborate the statements of the witnesses,” he added.

The defence had maintained that the tapes were not relevant and could not be produced as evidence as their authenticity could not be conclusively established. The defence had contended that the prosecution did not establish the tapes’ authenticity and the opportunity was not granted to the defence. It also maintained that there were a lot of ambiguities in the statements of some witnesses produced by the prosecution.

The accused also broke down in the court while reading out his mercy petition, praying for a lenient sentence. He said he had ailing wife and old parents to look after.

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