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Tehelka report: Fernandes cleared

February 04, 2004 14:18 IST
Last Updated: February 04, 2004 19:33 IST

A judicial commission probing Tehelka's expose on arms purchases has cleared Defence Minister George Fernandes of any 'impropriety' in the defence deals examined by it, but the veracity of the video tapes presented by the portal is under examination pending forensic tests abroad.

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The first of the three-part report submitted to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee by Justice S N Phukan immediately came under attack from the opposition which questioned the basis on which the judge had given a clean chit to Fernandes.

Justice Phukan, who examined 15 defence equipment purchases, including the Sukhoi and T-90 tank deals, told reporters that the report has recommended improvement in defence equipment procurement system.

Sources in the commission said the 641-page report said that "no impropriety was committed by Fernandes in any of the 15 defence deals examined."

The commission was set up in March 2001 soon after the portal played video tapes recorded in a sting operation purportedly showing defence officials accepting bribes.

As the opposition questioned the basis on which the judge had given a clean chit to Fernandes, Justice Phukan said there was no link between the 15 defence deals examined by him and the Tehelka tapes.

Reacting to the report, Fernandes described the sting operation as a "motivated rubbish" and voiced confidence that political forces that backed the "malicious campaign" would be exposed.

In the political storm that followed the expose, Fernandes had resigned from the government. Her later rejoined the government.

The Phukan Commission has recommended action against certain officials for their alleged role in the 'deals' while suggesting improvement in the present system of procurement of defence equipment.


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