Tejinder files fresh plea in HC, seeks reply of Centre

New Delhi: Former Lt Gen Tejinder Singh today moved the Delhi High Court afresh, seeking its direction to the Centre to give him a copy of its reply, which said the Defence Ministry had no role in issuing the press release that accused him of offering bribe to the Army chief.

The former officer, facing a CBI probe for allegedly offering Rs 14 crore bribe to Army Chief General V K Singh to clear a tranche of 600 Tatra trucks for the force, has filed the application before Justice Mukta Gupta. The court, which is already hearing his plea seeking withdrawal of the Army`s March 5 press release on the ground that it was harming his fundamental right to reputation, today slated May 24 for hearing his fresh application.

"Direct the respondent no I (Centre) to provide the copies of the letter submitted on record before this Hon`ble Court," said Tejinder Singh in his plea. The Centre earlier had told the court that it had no role in issuance of the alleged press release as it was drafted and released by the Army after a proper consultation with its top brass as per their media policy. The retired lieutenant general, in his plea, has cited provisions of the Army Act and the rules to drive home the point that the Army is not authorised to issue a public statement without prior approval of the Central government.

"It is pertinent to submit that as per the Army Act, Army Rules and the Defence Technical Publicity Rules, the Army and the Army personnel, including Army chief, are not authorised to directly address the public or media, without prior approval of the respondent no 1 (Centre). The Army could not have any media policy of its own, as has been wrongly informed by the respondent no. 1 to the Court," the application said.

Tejinder Singh`s counsel also cited various case laws in support of his plea that right to reputation is fundamental right and the alleged press release was defamatory in nature. Earlier, the court had asked the retired Lt Gen to establish that the right to reputation falls under the ambit of fundamental rights of the Constitution. During the hearing, Justice Gupta had said that it appears that the writ petition was not maintainable as Singh has other civil and criminal remedies to seek redressal against the alleged defamation caused to him by the Army`s press release.

The former Army officer had filed a petition through his counsel Anil K Aggarwal saying that the press release issued by senior Army officials, including Army Chief General V K Singh, was "defamatory" and had sought its withdrawal. He has moved the court to initiate disciplinary and legal action against the officers mentioned in his plea.

He has also said 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 had issued a press release levelling serious allegations against him by name. 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" TATRA trucks and he had immediately informed Defence Minister A K Antony about it.