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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Army chief lobs back letter-leak charge, sees it as attempt to smear his reputation

Army chief lobs back letter-leak charge, sees it as attempt to smear his reputation

New Delhi, March 29 (PTI and Online Bureau): General V K Singh, the army chief, said on Thursday that the leak of his letter to the Prime Minister presenting a grim picture of the force's defence preparedness should be treated as "high treason" and the source dealt with "ruthlessly."

The general's statement came even as defence sources said that the Intelligence Bureau has been asked to inquire into leakage of the letter to the media.

As tensions between him and the government escalated over the leak of his official letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Gen Singh hit back saying a "cynical approach" to tarnish his reputation should stop.

In a brief statement released by Army Headquarters, Gen Singh, who is currently in Jammu & Kashmir, said his official communication with the Prime Minister and Defence Minister is "privileged" communication.

"The leakage of the letter should be treated as high treason. Cynical approach to tarnish my reputation should stop. Sources of the leakage should be found and dealt with ruthlessly," said Singh, who is due to retire on May 31.

On Wednesday, members of Parliament from the Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal (U) and Rashtriya Janata Dal had called for his dismissal after the contents of his letter were splashed in a section of the media. Members from the government as well as the Opposition were agreed that the general's concerns should not have come out in the open.

Making statements implying that the general was behind the leak, some members of Parliament had even called for his sacking. It was also felt that the Army Chief should have first raised his concerns on the risk to the country's security directly with the Defence Minister instead of going straight to the Prime Minister. The General was also accused of breach of discipline.

Defence minister AK Antony, reacting to the uproar in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, had said: "I have made serious note of the observations. After consulting the Prime Minister and colleagues, we will take appropriate action."

The media leak of the letter followed months of acrimony between the Army Chief and the government caused first by a dispute over his date of birth --- which decides when he retires --- and then earlier this week by an interview given by the general to a leading newspaper in which he had claimed that he was offered a bribe of Rs 14 crore by a retired Lieutenant General for swinging a sub-standard defence deal.

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