Even as V.R.S. Natarajan, Chairman and Managing Director of BEML, was on Monday suspended on the recommendation of the CBI to ensure fair investigation into the Tatra truck deal and other cases, the investigating agency got the Defence Ministry's approval to initiate proceedings against him.
“Permission sought under Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act has been granted. It will be formally communicated to us anytime,” said a highly placed source in the CBI. Permission was sought to investigate Mr. Natarajan's role in alleged irregularities in the deals under the CBI scanner.
The CBI is expected to summon Mr. Natarajan for questioning in view of the documentary evidence gathered by it in the past few days and purported revelations made by retired and serving BEML officials.
Earlier on Monday, a Defence Ministry release said: “The government has put the CMD of BEML, V.R.S. Natarajan, under suspension following a recommendation by the CBI that he should be kept away from the post to ensure fair investigation. The CBI is currently investigating into various charges against Mr. Natarajan.”
Defence Ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar said the charge of CMD had been given to P. Dwarkanath, senior-most functional Director in BEML.
The CBI recommended Mr. Natarajan's removal after it discovered that all those BEML officials summoned for questioning were allegedly being “tutored” by him in advance.
About a week ago, the Defence Ministry asked Mr. Natarajan to explain why he had served a legal notice for filing a defamation suit against the former Army Chief, General V. K. Singh.
Mr. Natarajan said in Bangalore that he would “come out clean'' in the cases against him. “I respect the government decision and I will come out clean in this process,'' he said. The CBI has accused him of trying to influence witnesses in the case and requested the Ministry to keep him away from the process of ongoing investigation.
He is being questioned by the CBI in a case regarding alleged irregularities in procurement and supply of Tatra vehicles to the Army. The CBI is probing if the company had violated guidelines in buying and selling the trucks. It has also booked him for alleged cheating, criminal conspiracy and corruption in connection with the tendering process to hire a consultancy firm for BEML.
General V. K. Singh had alleged in an interview to The Hindu in March that he was offered a bribe of Rs. 14 crore by a former senior Army officer to clear supply of 600 “sub-standard'' Tatra trucks from BEML.
(With inputs from Devesh K. Pandey)