New Delhi: Members of Parliament on Wednesday quizzed Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma and Army Vice Chief S K Singh on a media report of suspicious movement of troops near the capital in January but they dismissed it as baseless.

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Army puts requirements before MPs

Sharma and Singh, appearing before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence, said it was normal process of testing the preparedness of the armed forces, sources said.

The two were asked to appear before the Committee to brief members on recent controversies dogging the armed forces, including the deal to procure Tatra trucks for the Army.

However, the newspaper report which said that on the night of January 16-17 an entire mechanised infantry unit based in Hisar with its fighting vehicles began moving towards Delhi, the day Army Chief Gen V K Singh approached the Supreme Court on the age issue, dominated the proceedings on Wednesday.

Committee Chairman Satpal Maharaj asked the Defence Secretary and the Vice Chief of the Army to appear before the Committee on April 9 with complete facts related to the issue, they said.

Asaduddin Owaisi (AIMIM), P J Kurien (Cong), Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi (BJP) and Ram Kirpal Yadav (RJD) raised the issue at the meeting of the Parliamentary Committee.

Several members felt that such reports created fear in the minds of the people as it was related to civil-military relations.

A section of the members also felt that such reports could send a wrong message to the world.

Indian Express stands by its report

The Indian Express, which reported a "curious" movement of two units of Army towards Delhi in mid-January that created a storm, said it stands by the report that came after investigation over six weeks.

In a statement, the newspaper said the report "The January night Raisina Hills was spooked: Two key Army units moved towards Delhi without notifying government" has, as expected, prompted widespread reaction.

"The report is a meticulous reconstruction and a very sober interpretation of the movement of two key Army units towards New Delhi on the night of January 16-17," the statement said adding it was investigated over six weeks and written by a team headed by Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta.

It said the report drew on highly credible sources, who had chosen to be anonymous and the newspaper is committed to protecting their identity.

The daily said it sent a detailed questionnaire to the Army and the Ministry of Defence and accurately reported their responses in the report. These responses were reiterated by them on Wednesday.

"Neither side explained why the Ministry of Defence wasn't notified, why the troops were suddenly asked to go back and what explanation was offered, if any, by the Army to the Government," it said.

There are some in the government and outside who have questioned the report, even calling it "disturbing" and "baseless". All this, even those comments that attribute false motives, are, we believe, part of a necessary debate, it said.

"The Indian Express stands by the report. And in the tradition of its commitment to journalism of courage and the readers' right to know, it will continue its investigation into the events of January 16-17 and the questions these raise," it said.