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Top General indicted in land scam after phone records produced in Army court

The Court of Inquiry into the Darjeeling land scam case has brought out that a Siliguri real estate developer and one of the seniormost generals...

The Court of Inquiry into the Darjeeling land scam case has brought out that a Siliguri real estate developer and one of the seniormost generals in the Army were in constant touch while a dubious Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was being drafted to clinch the land deal.

The CoI has established through phone records that real estate developer Dilip Agarwal,who inked the MoU to obtain No Objection Certificates from the Army for 71 acres near the 33 Corps HQ in Sukna Cantonment,was in constant touch with Lt Gen Avadhesh Prakash,Military Secretary (MS) at Army HQ,while the deal was being sealed.

While Lt Gen Prakash did not have a direct role in granting the NOCs,the CoI has brought out that that he used his influence as one of the seniormost officers in the Army to ensure that the deal went through.

The case,which is turning out to be a big scandal involving top Army officers,unravelled after it came to light that a massive land deal in Sukna was cleared by the Army against norms.

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Lt Gen Prakash,who was called to Kolkata for questioning in the case,admitted he had known Agarwal for more than a decade. He was called for questioning after Lt Gen P K Rath,whose appointment as Deputy Chief of Army Staff has since been scrapped by the Ministry of Defence,told the CoI that an educational institution had been recommended by Lt Gen Prakash.

The inquiry has also established that Lt Gen Prakash was in constant touch with Lt Gen Rath and Agarwal while the deal was being struck. The following phone records were presented at the CoI:

• February 7: Lt Gen Prakash called Dilip Agarwal a day before the 33 Corps HQ gave an undertaking to the Commissioner General of Land Reforms,West Bengal on February 8 that the Army had “no objection if an educational institution and residential facility is set up in the proposed land measuring about 71 acres”. This MoU was in direct contradiction to an earlier projection made by the Army in December 2008 that the land should be acquired by the military for security reasons.

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• March 19: A day before the MoU was to be signed,Agarwal and Lt Gen Prakash spoke four times between 10.30 am and 12.40 pm. This was allegedly the time when the MoU was being drafted in Darjeeling.

• March 20: The day the MoU granting NoCs for transfer of land was signed between the Army and the educational institution,Agarwal spoke to Lt Gen Prakash on his official phone number at Army HQ at 10.49 am. At 3.49 pm,after the MoU had been signed,Agarwal spoke to Lt Gen Prakash again,this time on his mobile. Agarwal was one of the persons who signed the MoU with the Army.

The CoI also probed allegations that Lt Gen Prakash was being offered the role to head the upcoming school if the deal went through. Sources said that the findings of the CoI,which concluded over the weekend,have been sent to the Eastern Army Commander for confirmation.

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The Defence Ministry,which has already asked for a report on the issue,is now expected to intervene given that two of the seniormost Generals have been indicted in the inquiry.

The Army has been asked to expedite the inquiry and fix responsibility at the earliest by Defence Minister A K Antony who has also sent a strongly worded note to Army HQ on the issue.

First published on: 01-12-2009 at 08:25:54 am
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