Defence behemoth BEML yesterday said it will file a defamatory suit against former chief of army staff General V K Singh for making false and motivated charges against the state-run company in the controversial Tatra trucks deal. “It is unfortunate that the great Singh, holding the position of the chief of army staff of this great country, made a shocking and false statement on the price and quality of Tatra trucks we have been supplying to the army since the 90s,” said a miffed BEML chairman VRS Natarajan.
Singh had claimed that the Tatra trucks sold to the army were not only grossly overpriced, but also sub-standard in terms of quality and operation. In a startling revelation, the general had also alleged that a former army officer offered him a Rs 14 crore bribe for clearing the order to supply an additional 600 Tatra trucks to the army.
The CBI is probing the charge. “We are sending a legal notice to him (Singh) first, seeking an apology for making false, motivated and damaging statements against the company. If he fails to respond, we will file a defamatory suit for claiming damages. We did not expect a man of that stature dubbing our truck as the most useless vehicle given to the army,” Natarajan said.
Referring to the graft charge, Natarajan said BEML had nothing to do with “somebody” offering bribe to clear the order and reports in a section of the media dragging the company’s fair name were without basis and irresponsible. Reacting to Natarajan’s statement, Singh said, “Apology for what? I have not made any allegations but have only stated some facts.”
Natarajan, however, said, “In the communications between Gen. Singh and the ministry of defence, the company’s name does not figure anywhere. We are going to act decisively on this issue.” Asked why he did not say this when Singh was in service, Natarajan said the company had to seek legal advice and get the board’s approval for initiating the defamation process.
Wondering from where Singh got the information that the Tatra truck was priced at Rs 28 lakh in Czech Republic but when brought and sold in India its price trebled to Rs 73 lakh to Rs 1 crore, Natarajan said the entire deal through the ministry of defence was executed with due diligence by the ministry.