NEW DELHI: Terming Army Chief Gen V K Singh's claims of being offered bribe of Rs 14 crore to swing a 'sub- standard' defence deal as a "serious matter", two former Army chiefs today questioned why the government did not take action when it was reported to the Defence Minister.
Gen (retd) Shankar Roychowdhury wondered what steps the government had taken so far, while Gen (retd) VP Malik sought to know why action was not initiated on the spot by either Singh or Defence Minister A K Antony when it was reported to him.
"The Army Chief has claimed he had informed the Defence Minister (of the bribery offer amounting to Rs 14 crore) which is absolutely a correct step. But what the Defence Ministry had done so far on this?" Roychowdhury sought to know.
"As a matter of security for defence forces, you are trying to compromise with the system," Roychowdhury said, adding the Chief of the Army Staff is a very prominent person "but at the same time is a very vulnerable person too".
Malik, on the other hand, said, "Action should have been taken then. You cannot afford to turn a blind eye or just laugh it away because it is a far serious matter."
He said, "whenever it was reported to the Defence Minister, it was responsibility of the Defence Minister as well as of the Army Chief to take it to its logical conclusion."
Malik said, "I think the Army Chief should have pursued the matter and blacklisting of company should have been done on the spot. You don't need further investigation on this, because the matter has been reported by Army Chief himself."
About Antony ordering a CBI probe into the matter, Roychowdhury asked, "What action did the Defence Ministry take so far? To whom they talked in the course of investigations, that is not known. No idea if the government had done anything on the Army Chief's allegations even primarily".
Malik also felt that stern action was required. "They will not go away unless we take very strong, prompt as well as ruthless action against people who are indulging in it."
The former Army officers' community is "supposed to strengthen our value system and not destroy it," he said.
Malik lamented that these revelations are "only creating greater harm to the Army and its morale".
Maj Gen (Retd) Brij Nath Dhar of the first post- Independence batch of Indian Military Academy Dehradun, however, put the blame on the entire system for not preventing the incident.
"I'm not putting the Army alone in the dock. I'm putting the entire system in the dock for not preventing the rot that is coming in," he said.
Army Chief Gen V K Singh said in a media interview that he was offered Rs 14-crore bribe by a lobbyist for clearing purchase of 600 substandard vehicles.
Caught in a fresh controversy over Army chief's allegation of bribe, a stunned Defence Minister ordered a CBI inquiry into it.