A Delhi court has appreciated the evidence of a former Haryana cadre IAS officer, LM Mehta, in the sting operation conducted by a news portal to expose alleged corruption in defence procurement by trying to secure an order for supply of defence equipment to the Army in 2000-01.
Mehta is currently heading a task group constituted by Haryana government for redressal of pubic grievances. He had held various positions in Haryana government, including special principal secretary to the then CM Bhajan Lal from 1992 to 1996.
The 1968-batch IAS officer had retired as secretary from Union Ministry of Urban Development in 2004. When the sting operation took place, Mehta was serving as additional secretary, Department of Defence.
A Delhi court on August 28 convicted Major General SP Murgai (retd) and awarded him three years rigorous imprisonment. During the sting operation, an attempt was made to give a gold chain to Mehta on December 24, 2000 but, the court pointed out that the “recording on the tape would indicate that Mehta did not accept this gift”. Mehta told the court that he handed back the “gift packet” to Murgai, who had come to his house along with Tehelka’s Samuel Mathew, who was posing as shareholder of a company.
“…Evidence of PW 8 (Mehta) is required to be appreciated in totality and in factual background,” commented Shailender Malik, Special CBI Judge, in his judgment. Mehta’s statement was recorded as Prosecution Witness (PW) 8 in the case.
Contacted, Mehta rued that “the unverified malicious and false allegations sought to be imputed against him had caused severe pain, embarrassment and mental tension all these long years since 2001”. However, he expressed sense of relief and vindication now that “veracity of his statement in the court had been upheld by the judge in clear terms”.
In this case, the functionaries of the news portal had undertaken the sting operation to expose alleged corruption in defence procurement and had met many persons, including government servants, defence persons and politicians, purportedly to facilitate obtaining of supply order of “Hand Held Thermal Imagers” (HHTI).
Murgai, the main accused, had served the Indian Army in various capacities including in Directorate General of Quality Assurance (DGQA) of Department of Defence Production, Director Quality Assurance (stores) from July 1998 till his retirement.
The CBI investigation had claimed that Murgai had accepted gratification of Rs 70,000 for himself from Mathew Samuel for “inducing public servants by corrupt and illegal means”.
According to Mehta’s statement in the court, Murgai along with Samuel had gone to his house and “in that meeting tried to hand over a box containing gold chain. In the video tape No 67, the judge observed, “It is explicitly evident that accused Murgai tried to hand over the (gift) box to Mehta who resisted receiving the same”.
“Watching…videos and going through the written transcription along with evidences on the record, it is at least established that Murgai in his capacity as retired Major General actively participated in helping Samuel for getting in the process of procurement of deal for supply of HHTI to Indian Army,” observed the judge. “.these video tapes give most corroborative evidence regarding involvement of the accused to induce public servants to taking favour/involving the fictitious company of Samuel,” the judge observed further.
However, Murgai, in his defence had stated that “he received the amount of Rs 70,000 under a bona fide belief and clear understanding that such amount has been paid towards the consultation profession charges”.
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