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Army Chief To Take Action Against Generals In Land Scam

Four senior army officers involved in a land scam in Darjeeling will face "some disciplinary and administrative action" that will be taken by the Army chief, Defence Minister A K Antony said on Wednesday.   The
PTI January 13, 2010 16:00 IST
PTI

Four senior army officers involved in a land scam in Darjeeling will face "some disciplinary and administrative action" that will be taken by the Army chief, Defence Minister A K Antony said on Wednesday.  

The Army had yesterday initiated disciplinary action against Lt Gen P K Rath that may lead to a court martial and started administrative action that could result in dismissal of Military Secretary Lt Gen Avadesh Prakash, 11 Corps Commander Ramesh Halgali and Maj Gen P Sen for their role in the sale of a 70-acre civilian land adjacent to Sukna military station near Darjeeling.  

Antony said the Defence Ministry had received a report from Army Chief Deepak Kapoor in this regard only last night and, therefore, it was "too early" for him to comment on the action to be taken against the Generals. 

"The Defence Ministry received a report from the Army chief that he is going to launch some disciplinary and administrative proceedings against some of his colleagues, who are involved in this inquiry. At this stage, it is too early on my part to comment on this," he said on the sidelines of a CII defence seminar here. 

Refusing to be further drawn into the issue, Antony said he was yet to examine the report and as the information provided by the Army chief was for the Defence Ministry only, it would not be possible for him to make any comment. 

"This is an information only for the Defence Ministry. I told you, I got it yesterday night only.The recommendation is for the Ministry's information only. I still have to examine it," he said. 

The Army Chief had on Monday directed Adjutant General Mukesh Sabharwal to issue 30-day show cause notices to Lt Gens Prakash, Rath and Halgali, and Major General P Sen after a probe had allegedly held them culpable in the land scam. 

Lt Gen Prakash is one of the top eight aides of the Army Chief at the headquarters in Delhi. 

Disciplinary action was initiated against Lt Gen Rath, who had allegedly played a major role in the issuance of a No Objection Certificate to a private realtor for buying a 70-acre plot adjacent to the Sukna military station near Darjeeling. 

Army's Eastern Command chief Lt Gen V K Singh would proceed against Lt Gen Rath, who had reportedly also signed a memorandum of understanding with the private realtor for allotment of seats to Army personnel's wards in the school that was to come up on the land. 

Rath, whose appointment as Deputy Army Chief was scrapped last year after a probe was ordered into the land scam, is currently attached to the Eastern Command headquarters in Kolkata. 

In the case of Lt Gen Prakash, who is set to retire on January 31, Lt Gen Halgali and Maj Gen P Sen, the administrative action could lead to punishment from a minor censure or recording of displeasure in their service records to loss of pension benefits or dismissal from service. 

The land scam came to light after it became known that the private realtor, Dalip Aggarwal, who is said to be close to Lt Gen Prakash, "falsely" represented to the Army that his trust would open an affiliate of the Ajmer-based Mayo College.

Meanwhile, Lt Gen Avadhesh Prakash, Military Secretary, against whom the Army has initiated administrative action for his role in the Darjeeling land scam, has proceeded on week-long leave.

"Lt Gen Prakash has taken leave for a week beginning yesterday," senior Army officers said here amidst speculation that he was asked to proceed on leave by Army chief General Deepak Kapoor.

Prakash, who is set to retire on January 31, found himself in the dock after an Army probe found him culpable in the land scam in Darjeeling, where a no-objection certificate (NOC) was issued to a private realtor to buy a 70 acres of civilian land adjacent to the Sukna military station.

The NOC became an issue after the Army found out that the private realtor, Dalip Aggarwal, had "falsely claimed" to have started work on setting up an institution affiliated to Ajmer-based Mayo College.

The Army had originally planned to use the piece of land for its own purposes to establish a training centre due to considerations of security in the region that falls close to the Chinese border.

An Army probe into the issue brought to light that Lt Gen Prakash, along with Lt Gen P K Rath, Lt Gen Ramesh Halgali and Maj Gen P Sen were involved in the giving of the NOC following which Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen V K Singh recommended to the Army chief that stern action will be taken against all senior officers.

In particular, Singh had recommended that Lt Gen Prakash's services be terminated as he had reportedly wielded undue influence on other officers to issue of the NOC. He is alleged to have proximity with the private realtor. PTI