The Centre was asked on Friday by the Delhi high court to clarify if the March 5 press release with allegations against former Lt Gen Tejinder Singh was issued by the government or by the Army officials in their individual capacity.
Justice Mukta Gupta asked the Centre's counsel Neeraj Chaudhary to seek instructions from the Defence Ministry and apprise the court of the requisite details by April 27. The court gave the order on a plea by former Lt Gen Singh for directions to the Army Headquarters to withdraw the release.
In a criminal writ petition filed through his counsel Anil K Aggarwal, Tejinder Singh contended that the press release issued by senior Army officials, including Army Chief General V K Singh, was "defamatory" and sought its withdrawal.
Tejinder Singh sought the court to initiate disciplinary legal action against the officers mentioned in his plea. Besides Gen V K Singh, Tejinder Singh 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 as accused in the case.
Aggarwal said, "The officers were not authorised to issue the press release as they have no right to defame me (Tejinder)." Terming the act of the army officials as "illegal", the lawyer said, "The officers abused their official positions, power and authority to level false charges against me."
Meanwhile, the Centre's counsel submitted that the grounds of challenge in the petition are questionable as far as the criminal writ is concerned.
Deferring the matter for April 27, Justice Gupta said, "The court will see the maintainability of the petition once the Government clarifies whether the press release was issued by the officers in their official or individual capacity.
The court also asked Tejinder Singh to show any judgment or provision of law under which it can direct the government to withdraw the press release.
In his petition, Tejinder Singh has said that between March 1 and March 4, a large number of media reports had emerged with allegations of carrying out illegal off-the-air monitoring of call records of some senior officials and on March 5, media cell of the Army Headquarters issued a press release levelling serious allegations against him by name.
He said it was also alleged against him that he had managed all media reports and was also questioned for his alleged role in the purchase of off-the-air monitoring system. Tejinder Singh said it was also alleged that he had purchased a flat in Mumbai's Adarsh Society and had also offered bribe to the army chief for swinging a sub-standard defence deal in favour of a private firm.
The army chief had earlier claimed that a lobbyist, who had "just" retired, offered him a bribe of Rs 14 crore for clearing a file relating to purchase of a tranche of 600 "sub-standard" vehicles of a particular make and he had immediately informed Defence Minister A K Antony about it.