Defamation case: Order on May 28 whether to continue inquiry
New Delhi: A Delhi court on Friday reserved its order for May 28 to decide whether the judicial inquiry conducted by it into the allegations levelled by Lt Gen (retd) Tejinder Singh in a criminal defamation case filed by him against Army Chief Gen VK Singh be continued or not.
Metropolitan Magistrate Jay Thareja had been holding an inquiry under section 202 of the CrPC for determining the existence of a criminal conspiracy and complicity among the five persons, including the Army Chief, in issuing the press release on March 5 in which Tejinder Singh was accused of offering a bribe of Rs 14 crore to Gen VK Singh.
"Today in pursuance of the inquiry, complainant has tendered in evidence a letter of May 4, 2012 and a certificate under the Evidence Act regarding the CD (showing interview of the Army Chief to a TV channel). Put up for orders on May 28," the court said.
Section 202 of the CrPC empowers the court to hold inquiry for the purpose of deciding whether or not there is sufficient ground for proceeding in a complaint.
The court had earlier said that before passing any order on summoning the respondents, it has to be inquired whether the Army Chief and four others named in the complaint, had any role in the publication of the press release.
It had said that on the basis of evidence available, it cannot draw any positive or negative inference and it would be appropriate for the court to postpone the issuance of process and hold an inquiry as per the provisions of the CrPC.
The judge recorded the testimony of Tejinder Singh in relation to a document, government communication given in the Delhi High Court, which he submitted as an evidence and said that there exists sufficient material for the court to proceed against the respondents.
During the hearing, Tejinder Singh's lawyer Anil Aggarwal
said government had communicated to the Delhi High Court that the March 5 press release was issued as per the media policy of the Army Headquarters after obtaining approval at the "highest level in the Army".
He said that being the Army Chief, Gen VK Singh is the highest authority in the hierarchy.
He also submitted to the court a CD of an interview of the Army Chief by a media house in which Gen VK Singh had levelled bribe allegations against Tejinder Singh.
After the counsel placed the CD before the court, the magistrate posed several queries to him about it.
"How do I know from this (CD) that other accused were also involved in this? What is the purpose of this video?," the court said.
To this, the counsel said that the March 5 press release contains allegations including the bribery one against him and this was also levelled by the Gen VK Singh in his interview.
"This is not the stage of trial where I have to prove everything. At this stage, I have to show only the prima facie offence," he said.
Regarding the highest authority in the Army, the counsel said, "Like Mount Everest cannot be excluded from the list of the highest mountains of the world, Gen VK Singh cannot be excluded from the list of the highest level in the Army."
During the hearing, Tejinder Singh also argued before the court and said all the five persons, named as accused in his complaint, are implicated by the government communication to the High Court as the government has said that the press release was issued by the Army Headquarters after obtaining approval at the highest level in the Army.
The court had earlier directed the Defence Ministry to place before it the file relating to the publication of the Army's March 5 press release in which Tejinder Singh was accused of offering a bribe of Rs 14 crore to the Army Chief.
The court, in its order, said it was "prima facie satisfied that the March 5 press release was defamatory" as "ex-facie" serious allegation of "bribery" has been made against Tejinder Singh, who had a long and distinguished career in the Army.
However, the court said before passing any order, it has to be inquired whether the Army Chief and four others named in the complaint, had any role in the publication of the press release.
Besides the Army Chief, Tejinder Singh has named Vice Chief of Army Staff SK Singh, Lt Gen BS Thakur (DG MI), Major General SL Narshiman (Additional Director General of Public Information) and Lt Col Hitten Sawhney, accusing them of misusing their official positions, power and authority to level false charges against him.
Tejinder Singh, a former Director General of Defence Intelligence Agency, had filed the defamation complaint against the Army Chief and four other Army officials rejecting the allegations that he had offered the bribe for clearing a deal for 600 "sub-standard" vehicles.
The case was transferred to Metropolitan Magistrate Jay Thareja as the court which was earlier hearing the matter, had refused to proceed with it citing loss of confidence of Tejinder Singh's counsel in it.