No role to play on army plea for release of body bags, coffins: CBI
After the Kargil war, the then NDA government had ordered procurement of 3,000 body bags and 500 aluminium caskets. Soon allegations of kickbacks trickled in.india Updated: Oct 12, 2017 23:32 IST
The CBI on Thursday said it had no role to play on the plea by the Army for release of body bags and caskets lying in an army warehouse in Kanpur for 17 years in connection with its probe into the case that was widely known as ‘coffingate’.
The assertion by the CBI comes in the light of reports that the Army has sought early handing over of 900 body bags and 150 caskets procured in 1999 lying in the warehouse after allegations of kickbacks in the USD 4 lakh deal and subsequent CBI probe into it.
Only one casket and one body bag was seized to be used as evidence during the trial by a CBI court, the official said.
The official said the seized property could be released only after a court order and the army completing the required formalities.
The Army’s renewed pitch for getting custody of the body bags and caskets comes at a time when images of bodies of seven military personnel wrapped in plastic sacks and tied up in cardboard triggered outrage last week. The military personnel were killed in an Mi-17 helicopter crash in Tawang last Friday.
Official sources said on Wednesday the Army has requested the CBI again to facilitate the handing over of the body bags and caskets as the probe into their procurement was over and the case was closed in 2013.
A Patiala House court had ordered that the documents should be given back to the army on July 21, 2016 following which on October 3, the army wrote to the CBI for the release of documents and the body bags and aluminum caskets, the official said on Thuesday.
The agency wrote to army on February 7, 2017 saying that it was not agitating discharge of the items as the same were no longer required to be produced in any court further,
The CBI had asked the army to take permission from the Additional Sessions Judge of the special court to get those items released, the official said.
The army approached the Additional Sessions Judge on July 10, 2017 with a Lt Col level officer asking for court directions to release the body bag and the casket along with the necessary documents. A copy of the letter was sent to the CBI also.
However, the CBI official said it was not aware about the decision of the court to the army’s application.
The CBI had filed chargesheet in August 2009 against then military attache in the Indian Embassy in the US, Major General (Retd) Arun Roy, Col (Retd) S K Malik, Col S D Singh and US based private person Victor Baiza of Buritrol and Baizarces, the vendor which supplied the casket.
However, in 2013 all of them were discharged by the special CBI court and two years later the proceedings against the US national were also dropped.