India

India minister Antony vows action in army bribe charge

AK Antony (right)
Image caption Defence Minister AK Antony said the incident took place more than a year ago

India's defence minister has vowed to take action against "anyone who is found guilty" after an allegation by the army chief that he was offered a bribe of $2.7m (£1.7m) by a lobbyist.

AK Antony told parliament that he did not act earlier as he had never received a written complaint.

The minister told federal detectives on Monday to probe Gen VK Singh's charges, which he made to The Hindu newspaper.

Gen Singh said the bribe was offered to induce him to clear vehicle purchases.

He said a defence equipment lobbyist had offered the bribe in return for approving the purchase of 600 "sub-standard" vehicles of a "particular make".

The minister said the incident took place more than a year ago, but the revelations have led to uproar in parliament.

Investigation

Speaking in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament on Tuesday, the minister said that Gen Singh told him a retired lieutenant-general, Tejinder Singh, had met him and offered him a bribe.

Lt Gen Singh has vehemently denied the charges, saying the accusations are "totally false" and that he will take legal action.

Mr Antony went on to say that he had asked Gen Singh to take action but the general had not wanted to pursue the matter for unknown reasons.

Image caption Gen Singh says the army's integrity has suffered

"I was shocked... It took me one to two minutes to regain my composure. Then I told him to take action but he told me I do not want to pursue it. I don't know why he did not want to pursue it at that time," Mr Antony said.

He added that "nobody will be spared" in the investigation into the matter.

"I acted on my judgement. If I am wrong, you may punish me. I think I have done my best," he said.

On Monday, the defence minister ordered a probe into the allegation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Matter reported

The move came after Gen Singh told The Hindu that the army already had 7,000 of the "sub-standard" vehicles of a "particular make" and many had been sold at "exorbitant prices with no questions asked".

"Just imagine, one of these men had the gumption to walk up to me and tell me that if I cleared the tranche, he would give me 140m rupees [$2.7m; £1.7m]. He was offering a bribe to me, to the army chief," he said.

"He told me that people had taken money before me and they will take money after me."

Gen Singh said he had immediately reported the matter to the defence minister.

"I told him, if you think I'm a misfit, I will walk out," he said.

The army chief has already been involved in a row with the government over his retirement age.

He went to the Supreme Court seeking a ruling to establish his date of birth as 10 May 1951 - as his birth certificate and other official documents record.

Last month he dropped his case against the government after the Supreme Court said it had found no error or prejudice in the government's and army's setting of the date as a year earlier, on 10 May 1950.

The date of birth determines if the general retires this year or next.

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