The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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George back in Delhi cross hairs

New Delhi, April 13: Springing a somersault on its perceived clean chit to George Fernandes a week back, the Centre today said a fresh look would be taken at his role in the Kargil defence scam and 'strict action' taken if he is 'found guilty'.

In an additional affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the Centre said 20 more cases of military purchases for the 1999 war would be handed to the Central Bureau of Investigation as there was 'misconduct' on the part of officials in the government, including then defence minister Fernandes.

Last Wednesday, the Centre had told the court that the purchases were above board, indirectly absolving Fernandes of charges of wrong-doing. But the statement had drawn fire from the Left, which asked the Congress how it could go back on its prime poll plank for last May's general elections.

Red-faced after the fusillade and under pressure from the Congress leadership, the defence ministry today filed the additional affidavit, abandoning its unofficial policy of not opening a military Pandora's box.

'The government is committed to taking strict action against officials/authorities, including the former defence minister, if it is found that the excuse of Kargil war was taken to make the purchases with a motive of personal benefit in violation of rules and regulations,' the affidavit said.

It referred to a report of the comptroller and auditor general ' which has gone into 123 purchase deals and found irregularities in 35 amounting to an estimated loss of Rs 2,000 crore ' and said 20 cases which were not with the CBI would now be handed over to it.

'The (defence) ministry has decided to also refer the balance 20 cases, which are yet to be vetted by CAG, to the CBI for investigation.'

The cases that will be looked into are wide-ranging, starting from ammunition and gun spares to sleeping bags, special socks and gloves.

'The government is now exploring whether the facts reveal a prima facie case of commission of criminal offences under law as heavy financial losses in excess of Rs 2,000 crore were caused in addition to the fact that the equipment did not materialise at the time of its need,' the affidavit said.

Intelligence sources said the Congress leadership and Union law minister H.R. Bhardwaj 'had brought pressure on Pranab Mukherjee to modify the affidavit in the Supreme Court' after the first one created a political controversy.

On Sunday, Bhardwaj had said a revised affidavit was being prepared as the first had been modified by the defence ministry.

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