M A I N   N E W S

Sukna Case
Scam? No money changed hands, says Gen Prakash
Tribune News Service

Excerpts from the interview

Karan Thapar: So, on the basis of what you have just told me, is the use of the term, ‘scam’ inappropriate or even misleading?

General Prakash: Absolutely, because the land doesn’t belong to the Army, no money has exchanged hands. The land remains with the original owners. So, where is the scam? I just don’t understand that.

Karan Thapar: Many people say that at the bottom of this whole sorry affair there is a rivalry or a bitterness between Lt Gen V K Singh, the present Army Commander of Eastern Command and who is going to be the next Army Chief, and yourself ?

General Prakash: This is absolutely wrong. We have been colleagues as young officers, we had our postings together. There is no question of any rivalry or any bitterness. Even during my tenure as military secretary, he is one gentleman who had never recommended any case to me. I am very clear on that.

New Delhi, February 28
The so-called Sukna land scam, which has rocked the Army establishment for the past few months and hogged headlines in the media, is just a lot of hot air, claims the former Military Secretary to the Army Chief, Lt Gen Avadesh Prakash (Retd). The General, who retired on February 1, happens to be one of the officers accused of cosying up to a property developer in Siliguri and of pressurising the Corp Commander to withdraw his initial objection on security reasons to construction work outside the Sukna military station in Darjeeling.

Breaking his silence to Karan Thapar in the CNN-IBN programme Devil’s Advocate on Sunday evening, the retired General claimed that the 70 acres in question belonged to the Chumta tea estate and that developers did not need any permission from the Army. “The local military authorities have no jurisdiction whatsoever on the land adjacent to their area,” said General Prakash in reply to a question.

But asked why in that case the promoter had sought a no-objection certificate from the Corp Commander at Sukna and why the Commander had turned down the request at first, General Prakash replied, “May be… they just wanted to have (good) neighbourly relations with the military authorities there… that’s all I can say.”

He claimed that the Corp Commander’s initial objections were related to the promoter’s plans to put up malls and resorts on the land. But when promoters decided to put up a school instead, General Prakash told Thapar, the Corp Commander ‘must have changed his decision’.

General Prakash admitted that he knew the promoter, Dilip Agarwal, and that he accompanied him to meet Maharaja Gaj Singh of Jodhpur in Jodhpur to discuss the possibility of securing the franchise of a school to be set up at Sukna. He also admitted visiting Sukna in the company of the promoter and visiting the land for ‘five or 10 minutes’. In hindsight, he agreed, the actions were possibly errors of judgment and improper. But ‘at that point of time I thought it was a harmless thing to do’, he confessed.

In another candid confession, the retired General admitted to have taken up the issue of the school with the Corp Commander at Sukna. But he defended his decision by saying that as Military Secretary he would receive ‘recommendations’ from colleagues, senior officers and even retired senior officers, which he would then pass on to the appropriate officer for consideration. The officer then would examine the issue, analyse it and put it up for direction of competent authority, he pointed out before asking, “Now if a decision is taken by that competent authority, do you believe that the person who recommended the case is to be blamed?”

Significantly, however, the retired officer dismissed reports of a rivalry between him and Lt Gen V K Singh, chief of the Eastern Command, who is slated to take over as the Army Chief on March 31. In fact, General Prakash handed out a compliment to the future Army Chief when he singled him out for ‘never recommending any case’ to him.

General Prakash, who was indicted by a Court of Inquiry in December, had appealed to the Armed Forces Tribunal which ordered a retrial and gave General Prakash and other accused officers a chance to cross-examine witnesses, an opportunity they were denied during the inquiry.

In the interview telecast on Sunday evening, General Prakash, however, claimed that Army rules did not allow disciplinary action once administrative action had already been initiated. He also felt that the Court of Inquiry was not constituted in accordance with rules and should have been re-constituted.



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