The Army has appointed Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia to head a panel that will review the functioning and efficacy of a controversial Military Intelligence (MI) unit that gained notoriety following several allegations of irregularities and a recent case of espionage involving its head clerk.
Lt Gen Bhatia,who is currently the Director General Infantry,will head a panel of officers that will probe the functioning of the Technical Support Division (TSD) over the past two years,ever since it was set up by then Army chief Gen V K Singh.
A decision on the future of the unit known as the dirty tricks department of the former Army chief that faced allegations ranging from illegal telephone interceptions to misusing resources and overspending secret funds will be taken on the basis of the panels recommendation.
While the panel will look at the overall functioning of the shadowy unit as well as its commanding officer,Col Munishwar Nath (Hunny) Bakshi,the Army is separately probing several questions that have been raised by the defence ministry on the alleged misuse of secret funds over the past year.
Sources said the move comes after initial inquiries pointed to several cases of irregularities. According to these sources,the TSD,which directly reported to Gen V K Singh,spent nearly Rs 20 crore in the past two years from secret funds that fall under the unaudited category.
As reported earlier,the defence ministry has put the Armys spending from secret intelligence funds in the last financial year under scrutiny after it found that Rs 57 crore was spent against the allotted amount of Rs 42 crore.
A scrutiny of internal records has revealed that the unit was raised on the instructions of Gen V K Singh and did not have any clear mandate or role within the MI. In fact,the unit did not even report to the MI chief,but got instructions and gave reports directly to the Army Chiefs office. The unit contained as many as seven officers,whose roles too have come under the scanner.
Sources said some of the irregularities include visits abroad,especially to Dubai where senior officers made at least two trips in the past year. Another charge is that the unit deployed a team to the Eastern Army Command disguised as civilians without keeping local military authorities in the loop. The team was led by an officer and included at least four soldiers.
This deployment,which has raised questions as senior officers of the command have to be informed of any such posting,came at a time when there was special focus on then Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen Bikram Singh and the 3 Corps Commander Lt Gen Dalbir Singh. This attempt,sources say,was aimed at disturbing the line of succession of the Army,as the two officers were in line to take over as Army Chiefs in the future.
The role of Colonel Bakshi,who recently admitted himself to the psychiatric ward of the Army base hospital after complaining of mental strain and depression,has come under the scanner as he headed the controversial unit. Bakshi who got himself admitted shortly after the retirement of Gen V K Singh has since been discharged and will appear before the panel of officers.
Bakshi was admitted to hospital at a time when he was asked to appear before a Court of Inquiry that is probing an espionage case involving the unit,after its head clerk was caught while allegedly trying to sell secret information to Pakistans ISI in April.
The soldier,identified as Shivdasan,was trapped by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence in an elaborate operation that involved a double agent and a relative of the soldier in Dubai. Classified documents were recovered after he was caught red-handed in Kochi.