Defence minister of AK Antony termed the recent leak of Army chief VK Singh’s letter to the Prime Minister as “anti-national.”
“Whoever leaked this letter.. that act is anti-national. No patriotic Indian will do this. It helps only enemies, only our enemies… We have requested the IB to enquire about this.. We want to know the truth of it, we will go to the root. We can’t spare those people.. The whole nation wants it, the whole Parliament wants it,” Antony said.
“We will take the strongest action under Indian law,” he added, “We will not stop till we take strongest actions.. They will be given the maximum punishment under the Indian Penal Code.”
Asked whether the decision to publish the letter, by the DNA newspaper, was correct, he said:
“When it comes to armed forces, we must protect their prestige. Unless (it is) highly necessary, don’t bring controversy to the armed forces,” he appealed to the Press.
Asked whether the army is facing a crunch in availability of ammunition, as alleged by the army chief, he said:
“You are trying to corner the government on both fronts — going slow and scams… Don’t blame me on both counts. The government will have to take care of both… I cannot throw into the basket any complaint… It will take time (to investigate the allegations),” he said.
Antony said the amount spent for ammunition is on the increase every year.
“The figure is more and more every year.. Last year, it was 11,000 crores, this year, it is 12,000 crore.. There is a limit of the budget. At the same time, regarding equipping the armed forces, budget will not be a problem. We are continuously reviewing the defence preparedness.. We will not spare any effort..” he said.
On the question of why action has not been taken against a lieutenent general on the complaint of a Trinamool MP, Antony said the matter was mentioned to him at a meeting of the force chiefs. He said he said that “if there is a specific complaint, please take action.”
“We have written to the CBI to please have a comprehensive enquiry, including all things (such as letter leak, brigadier general etc.),” he said.
Asked whether he has seen a letter from the Army Chief on the matter, he said he did not recall any such written letter, only an oral mention. To prosecute the lieutenant general, the ministry of defence had to give a written sanction.
Asked whether the Army Chief VK Singh enjoys the confidence of the government, Antony said, “I don’t have to comment on newspaper reports. All the three defence chiefs are enjoying the confidence of the government. They are still working.”
“Don’t tarnish the image of the army.. Don’t bring up the controversy,” he added.
Asked about media reports about corruption and kick-backs in a recent deal, Antony said action will be taken against the companies even if the contract has been done, going by indemnity clauses contained in all the contracts.
“Our policy is zero tolerance of corruption.. We see a sea of complaints in the process of procurement. At any stage in the contract.. from trials, CMC, examination of various wings.. or at CCS, at any stage, if we are convinced there is a serious case of malpractice, we will not hesitate to cancel the contract… Even after signing the contract, if anything is found, we will take action,” he said.