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Govt for swift action in Army land scam case

With four generals and several other officers in the dock for the alleged Sukna land scam, the government has asked the Army to swiftly take the case to its logical conclusion.

"Whenever there is irregularity in any procedure or any functioning, the Service concerned looks into the matter and takes appropriate steps. The defence ministry had directed the Army to look into this matter and take appropriate decisions,'' said minister of state for defence M M Pallam Raju on Tuesday.

Defence minister A K Antony, on his part, has already warned the Army that such cases "not only damage its image'' but also "adversely affect the ability of senior officers to measure up to the expectations of the men they lead''.

MoD and Army HQ will take the final call whether the officers indicted by the court of inquiry (CoI) should face a court martial after summary of evidence (equivalent to framing of charges in a civil court) is recorded against them.

The case revolves around the Army's grant of a no-objection certificate (NoC) in February-March to business groups and a private education trust, which posed as an affiliate of the Ajmer-based Mayo College, to acquire a 71-acre tea estate adjacent to the Sukna military station. The area falls under the jurisdiction of the 33 Corps based in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal.

After the NoC was granted on February 6, an MoU was subsequently signed on March 20 between the Sukna station commander and four private entities -- J F Low & Co Ltd, Sheetala Vyapar Pvt Ltd, Mata Vaishnonodevi Mercantile Pvt Ltd and Akshara Vanijyar Pvt Ltd.

Incidentally, Army authorities had earlier refused the NoC and instead wanted the 71-acre land to be acquired from the West Bengal government, which had leased it to the four entities in 2006, for the force itself.

The officers questioned by the CoI include military secretary Lt-Gen Avadhesh Prakash, one of the eight principal staff officers to General Deepak Kapoor at the Army HQ here, the then 33 Corps chief Lt-Gen P K Rath and his deputy Lt-Gen Ramesh Halgali, as reported earlier.

Sources close to these officers, however, claim they are being needlessly victimised. "There is a scam behind the so-called scam. Not a single inch of land has changed hands. Moreover, the MoU, undertaken to allow the construction of a residential school, was cancelled in April itself after the Eastern Army Command (EAC) objected,'' said one.

Added another, "It's actually the result of a messy turf war raging between Gen Kapoor and his successor, EAC chief Lt-Gen V K Singh (who is slated to become Army chief on March 31, 2010).''

Source: TOI


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