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Defamation case: Order against army chief on May 5

April 26, 2012 19:54 IST
A Delhi court on Thursday sought clarification from former Lt Gen Tejinder Singh, who had filed a criminal defamation case against Army Chief Gen V K Singh and four others, as to what was the "independent roles" of the accused named by him in the entire case.

Metropolitan Magistrate Sudesh Kumar, who was scheduled to pronounce the order on Thursday on the plea of Tejinder Singh, deferred it till May 5.

He asked Tejinder Singh's counsel about the roles of the accused in issuing the March 5 press release. This release, Tejinder Singh alleged, was circulated with the sole intention to defame him.

"I need some material clarification. What is the independent role of the five accused? Are they signatory to it (the press release)," the magistrate asked.

Advocate Anil Aggarwal, who appeared for Tejinder Singh, said that the Army Chief took his name in the media and Lt Col Hitten Sawhney, posted in the media cell and named as accused in the case, had signed the press release. "This is a straight case. There is media prosecution going against me. If he (army chief) had some information about the bribe offer as he had said in the press release, instead of filing a complaint with the police or court, he took my name in the media. I am outside the government and how can I know what is going inside," he said.

Tejinder Singh, a former director general of the defence intelligence agency, had filed defamation complaint against the army chief and four other army officials.

Besides the army chief, he has named Vice Chief of Army Staff S K Singh, Lt Gen B S Thakur (DG MI), Major General S L Narshiman (additional director general of public information) and Lt Col Hitten Sawhney, accusing them of misusing their official position, power and authority to level false charges against him.

Tejinder Singh had earlier trashed the allegations that he had offered bribe to the army chief for clearing a deal for 600 "sub-standard" vehicles.

The court also asked Tejinder Singh's counsel as to how could he say that there was a conspiracy to defame his client. "Who is the signatory to the release? What is the role of the others (accused)? How do you see conspiracy," the court asked.

To this, the counsel said, "Lt Col Hitten Sawhney is the signatory (in the press release). They (accused) conspired with each other to defame me and the press release has come through the army headquarters."

After Tejinder Singh's counsel advanced his arguments on court's clarification, the magistrate initially reserved the order for May 11 but the lawyer raised objection after which the magistrate advanced it for May 5.

"There is no reason to delay the order. Please right my objection on it. He (Gen Singh) is going to retire and he is abusing his official position...I want to show the urgency," the advocate said.

He added, "Once pre-summoning evidence is recorded and has been verified by the presiding officer (of the court) by putting his signature, the opinion of the presiding officer is formed then and there."

The court told the counsel that it has to form an opinion on the complaint and listed the matter for order on May 5. "Let the court pass the order. This will be my opinion and not yours (counsel). Let me decide this. Is this the way you show your urgency? Come on May 5 for order," it said.

The counsel told the court that Gen V K Singh is retiring next month-end and he should not be allowed to "escape" like this as the accused were connected with each other with the army chief being the head.

"The way the press release was brought out, all the accused are under each other. I am giving the complete picture," he said.

"This was a mere press release addressed to particular media persons. This is an informal way....This is a private communication by the accused and they misused and abused the power of their office. A private communication is being given a colour of public communication," he said.

The magistrate, however, asked the counsel as to how the accused were related to the issuance of the press release. "If this is a private communication, then again my question is how they (accused) are related to it," he asked.

The counsel answered the court's query saying, "No body (accused) denied (in their reply to Tejinder Singh's legal notice) that they have not done anything like this. No body denied their specific role.

"If they are doing something together, conspiracy is there. They were not entitled to make the press release. The press release has to come officially under Press Information Bureau head mast. This is the way a press release is issued."

"I am merely saying that summons should be issued to them. I have also filed a writ petition in the Supreme  Court....They are taking advantage of the lacunae in law," Tejinder Singh's counsel said.

"Till date, the media is giving news about me daily but I am defenseless. There is no forum where I could go and clear my case. Even the raksha mantri (defence minister) had taken my name in the Parliament...Their (accused) only purpose is to defame me (Tejinder Singh) and they have succeeded in it," the counsel added.

 During the hearing earlier, Tejinder Singh had said that the allegation against him of having offered bribe on behalf of Tatra and Vectra Ltd, which supplies vehicles to BEML was absolutely "false, ill-founded and concocted." He had told the court that between March 3 and 5 this year, a number of media reports alluded to the army chief having allegedly ordered "unlawful monitoring" of mobiles, particularly in the South Block area here.

In order to divert the public attention from this news, which pointed fingers at senior functionaries in theaArmy

Headquarters, including Gen V K Singh, the media cell of thearmy headquarters issued a press release on March 5, he had said, adding he was named in the press release without any proper legal sanction.

The army chief had in response to the legal notice by Tejinder Singh told him that he was ready to substantiate the allegations in the court.