Mumbai:  Former Army Vice Chief Lt Gen Noble Thamburaj, booked by CBI in a land dispute case along with a private builder, has questioned as to why he was "singled out" even as the investigating agency scrutinised documents and computers seized in searches at their residences.

The searches were conducted on Tuesday after CBI registered a case against Lt Gen Thamburaj, Pune-based builder Kalpataru and former Defence Estate Officer S R Nayyar on charges of criminal conspiracy, cheating and misconduct in the out of court land dispute settlement to benefit a private builder to the tune of Rs 46 crore.

The CBI was preparing questions for the retired Vice Chief and other accused in the case on the basis of its investigation and the enquiry conducted by the army, a copy of which along with the relevant documents had been handed over to the probe agency, official sources said.

The CBI was not much enthused with recoveries made at the searches but said a case had been made out on the documents provided by the army, the sources said.

They also said the army enquiry was silent about the possible favours that Lt Gen Thamburaj and Nayyar had received from the builder and sleuths were trying to ascertain that.

CBI officials investigating the case said all the accused seem to have covered their tracks well after the army enquiry. However, Lt Gen Thamburaj, who retired as Vice Chief in October 2009, said it was a collective decision by number of officers and "therefore, it surprises me why I have been singled out for the allegations."

Expressing his desire to extend full cooperation to the CBI, he said he had no connection or association, whatsoever, with the people named by the CBI.

"After 40 years of meritorious service, such allegations are greatly disappointing and I feel hurt and pained with the allegations," Thamburaj said, adding, he would continue to do everything to clear his name from charges levelled by the CBI.

According to the CBI, Thamburaj, who was posted as General-Officer-in-Command of Southern Command, and Nayyar had allegedly shown undue favour to the builder for a property measuring 0.96 acres in Defence Land at Pune Cantonment.

"There was a dispute going on regarding the property in question. Thamburaj and Nayyar settled the matter out of court in spite of several court orders given in favour of the army. The duo indulged in gross misconduct," the CBI said.

The two officers ignored rules and policies, violated the terms of lease entered into by the Ministry of Defence and Kalpataru and caused the private company pecuniary gains of about Rs 46 crore, it said.

However, the retired officer said that an army commander cannot "micro-manage" and was largely dependent on his advisors. "In this case no land was transferred to any builder during my tenure. The building in question was also constructed before I took charge as the army commander," he said, adding, that he had raised some objections following which the builder threatened to take the army to court.

"My advisers convinced me that our case in the court was weak and it would be wiser to go in for an out of the court and that too after Principal Director of Defence estates, an authority on such matters, had concurred with the proposal," Thamburaj said.

According to CBI officials, there was a property dispute between Defence Ministry and the builder and the high court had in 2005 passed an order in favour of the MoD.

Despite that, the two accused tweaked certain rules and policies and did an out of settlement with Kalpataru builders without the knowledge of higher authorities of the Defence Ministry, the CBI alleged.

Searches were being conducted at the Pune residences of Thamburaj and Nayyar and also at the office premises of Kalpataru builders at Koregaon Park in Pune.

Thamburaj, a 1969 batch officer from Bombay Sappers, was GoC-in-C of the Southern Command till December 31, 2008 before being appointed as Vice Chief of Army on January 1, 2009.

The offence is alleged to have taken place in 2008 and the CBI was also listing properties of all the accused in the case which has been registered under 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 420 (cheating) of the IPC and section 13 (2) and 13(1)(d) (criminal misconduct) of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

(Agencies)