Barely eight days after General VK Singh retired as the army chief, a Delhi court on Friday summoned him and four other officers in a criminal defamation case filed by (retd) Lt Gen Tejinder Singh, who has been alleged of offering bribe to the former army chief.
“After deliberating upon the submissions made by advocate (for Tejinder Singh), perusing the evidence/material brought on record during the inquiry under Section 202 of the CrPC and studying the law, I find that now this court has sufficient material to proceed against all the respondents,” Metropolitan Magistrate Jay Thareja said.The HC directed Gen VK Singh, Vice-Chief of Army Staff SK Singh, Lt Gen BS Thakur (DGMI), Major General SL Narshiman (additional director general of public information) and Lt Col Hitten Sawhney) to appear on July 20.
This is perhaps for the first time that a civilian court has summoned top-ranking army officials. However, terming the charges of hatching a criminal conspiracy “absurd”, the court clarified the five respondents were being summoned in respect of Section 499 (criminal defamation) only.
Ex-army chief Gen VK Singh and other four officers can either appear before the magistrate or challenge the order before a sessions court or Delhi HC.
In his complaint Tejinder Singh had alleged the army’s March 5 release accusing him of offering a bribe of Rs 14 crore to the then army chief Gen VK Singh was defamatory in nature.
The press release blamed Tejinder Singh, former chief of the Defence Intelligence Agency, and some disgruntled serving officers of the Military Intelligence for planting story in the media relating to purported tapping of phones in the Capital.
“It is a sad event that the ex-army chief and other top serving officials of the army are being summoned in a defamation case,” said Tejinder Singh.
In his testimony, Tejinder Singh had said communications, such as the press release, were issued following approval by the entire military hierarchy.
To determine the procedure followed to approve such releases, the court summoned and perused the file regarding March 5 release.
But since the it did not contain any office notings, the testimony of Tejinder Singh has been believed at this stage, the court noted.