The victory in the Kargil War may have been one of the high points in India’s post-Independence history but what happened in the aftermath of the war was a blot on the face of the country. Sixteen years ago irregularities were alleged in procurement of material, munitions and missiles during the war sparking a major political controversy.
The Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government at the Centre was severely criticized after allegations of corruption in the purchase of coffins surfaced.
The NDA government bought about 500 caskets for USD 2,500 each – thirteen times higher than the actual price
at the time, causing a loss of USD 1,87,000 in the purchase. In 2009, the CBI filed a chargesheet in the investigation launched in 2002. The chargesheet named three Indian Army officials and a US company but did not implicate then defence minister George Fernandes. A trial court had in December 2013 discharged all accused with one Victor Baiza getting discharged in September this year.
When K.G. Dhananjay Chauhan moved the apex court for investigation into the alleged wrongdoings in the purchases done in 1999 claiming that the war scam was worth Rs.24,000 crore, the apex court declined it saying that plea had become infructuous in the wake of previous decisions by lower courts.
An apex court bench of Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice V. Gopala Gowda declined the plea as counsel S. Balasubramanian appearing for the Centre told the court that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had arraigned Baiza in the aluminium casket purchase case, but he was discharged by the court of metropolitan magistrate. Similarly, Balasubramanian said, the CBI investigated the charges of wrongdoing in the purchase of Krasonpol ammunition, found nothing and filed a closure report that too was accepted by a trial court. Counsel Balasubramanian said that allegations of wrongdoing in the purchase of snow suits were based on mere apprehensions as no contract was entered into and consequently no money was paid.
The apex court, which has been monitoring the case since 2004, closed the matter and disposed of the PIL after the Centre and the CBI said all the accused were discharged by the trial court and nothing survived in the case.
The CBI, which was asked to probe the case in June 2005, had initially registered 25 cases but the agency could not find sufficient evidence to proceed against anyone after a decade of investigations.