New Delhi: Defence Minister AK Antony admitted on Tuesday that Army chief Gen VK Singh informed him about Lt Gen (retd) Tejinder Singh offering a bribe of Rs14 crore but didn't want to pursue the matter. Antony told the Parliament he would investigate the Army chief's allegations and was ready to cancel any contract if there was corruption. The minister Monday ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry into the allegations.

Antony for probe into Army Chief's claims

'He (Army chief) told me Lt Gen Tejinder Singh offered him bribe but he told me he did not want to pursue it. No written complaint was given. Till today I have not received any written complaint from him and after yesterday's (Monday) report, I have ordered a CBI inquiry,' Antony told the Parliament.

The minister said he started his political career in 1958 as a student union leader and had fought corruption all through his life.

“From day one as Defence Minister I have cleared my position that I am for modernisation of forces but will not tolerate corruption. I have nothing to hide and will say nothing but the truth,” he said.

Antony assured the house that he would go to any extent to probe the Army chief's allegation.

“Will take action, nobody will be spared. Will cancel all contracts if any corruption was found. If I am wrong, punish me. But I have done my best,” he said.

The Army chief has disclosed that he was offered a kickback of Rs.14 crore in his office by a retired defence officer, sending shockwaves through the defence establishment.

He said he had informed Antony immediately about the conversation.

Antony also promised to streamline the defence procurement process. 'We are also discussing how to tighten the system and improve the procurement process,' said Antony.

Antony's remarks come a day after the Bharatiya Janata Party said the minister's indecisiveness could be one of the reasons why the Army chief spoke to the media.

BJP leaders Arun Jaitley and SS Ahluwalia said in the Rajya Sabha Tuesday that they had no doubt about the minister's honesty, but asked him to clarify why such a charge was being levelled after over a year and why no action was taken.

'Over the last few months, the facts that are tumbling out make the situation curiouser and curiouser. There is civilian control over the armed forces, and such confrontations need to be avoided,' said Jaitley.

The BJP leader said Antony should have made a distinction between 'substantiated charge' and 'baseless charge' and should have got the matter investigated.

“Putting blinkers on and not getting the charge inquired at all means that we are learning to live with corruption,” Jaitley said.

“We are completely with you in curbing corruption in the defence forces,” Jaitley told Antony.  

“But please maintain a judicious balance between curbing corruption and act on defence preparedness and modernisation of defence forces.”

(Agencies)