Ex-Lt Gen, Army lock horns in land dispute case

Thamburaj sought to clear his name of the controversy saying it was a collective decision by number of officers.

Mumbai: An all-out war on Wednesday started between
former Army Vice Chief Lt Gen Noble Thamburaj and the force
with the retired officer objecting to him being "singled out"
in a land dispute case and the Army dubbing his decision of an
out-of-court settlement as "grossly disadvantageous".

Thamburaj sought to clear his name of the controversy
saying it was a collective decision by number of officers and
"therefore, it surprises me why I have been singled out for
the allegations".

Expressing great "disappointment, hurt and pain", he,
however, said he will extend full cooperation to the CBI and
also maintained that he had no connection or association,
whatsoever, with the people named by the investigating agency.

The Army`s Southern Command, immediately after the
General came out with his version, issued a statement saying
"Bungalow No 8-A, Lothian Road is located on 0.96 Acres of
prime defence land adjacent to MG Road in Pune cantonment and
was reserved for married officers` accommodation.

"The original lessee had transferred the property to
Kalpataru Builders who wanted to develop it for commercial
use, violating the terms of lease, leading to series of
litigation. The Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court had
passed judgements favourable to the Army.

"However, instead of implementing court orders, an out of
court settlement grossly disadvantageous to Army was arrived
at. Army, pursuant to its policy of zero tolerance to
corruption, carried out an inquiry and handed over these cases
to CBI for investigation and prosecution of the guilty," the
release said.

The CBI, which carried out searches at the residence of
the former Vice Chief, is scrutinising documents and
computers seized.
The searches were conducted yesterday 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 probe
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.

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.

"After 40 years of meritorious service, such allegations
are greatly disappointing and I feel hurt and pained with the
allegations," Thamburaj said.

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.

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, Thamburaj said an Army commander cannot "micro
manage" affairs 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 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.