Army denies “off the air monitoring” of conversations

The Defence Ministry is keeping a close watch on the situation following charges that some senior former and serving Army officers were involved in a curious case of “electronic eavesdropping.”

Soon after the Ministry denied a report last week in an English news weekly that the Military Intelligence (MI) detected on February 16 the “bugging” of the Defence Minister's office, a war of words broke out.

The news report sought to speculate linking the development, among other factors, to the controversy over the year of birth of Army Chief General V.K. Singh.

Reacting to reports in some newspapers in the last two days furthering this purported theory that the Army had carried out “off the air monitoring” of conversations by placing equipment in private vehicles in the vicinity around the Minister's premises, the Army reacted strongly, stating that the story was “fabricated fiction and the people responsible are some disgruntled officers, retired and serving, whose sole aim is to create mistrust between the Army and the Ministry of Defence (MoD).”

The MI, the Army said, had the mandate to routinely debug the offices of senior functionaries of the MoD and the Army and that in one such check some abnormality was noticed in the Minister's office.

“Further checks carried out revealed that the voltage drop noticed was due to malfunctioning of the instrument. The Army does not carry out ‘off the air monitoring' but seeks the assistance of the IB [Intelligence Bureau] if it finds the need. The monitoring equipment is in the possession of the signal intelligence and is deployed along the borders and in counter-insurgency areas. The equipment is under the control of the Director General, Defence Intelligence Agency and not under the MI,” the Army said in a statement.

Top officer named

The Army then went on to directly accuse a former senior ranked officer by name as being behind the news story and listed some cases in which this person has been linked, including the Adarsh Housing Society.

“This officer, along with some disgruntled serving officers of the MI, against whom disciplinary and administrative actions are in the pipeline, has worked out this fictitious story. The Army strongly denies this and takes strong exception to such salacious and malafide stories, coming out as news,' the Army said.

Sources in senior management of the Army told The Hindu that the serving officers against whom action was being contemplated were of differing nature and hold the rank of Colonel and above.

Meanwhile, a senior bureaucrat said the Defence Ministry had taken “cognisance” of the Army reaction.

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