Staff Reporter

Petition seeks probe into alleged payment of kickbacks

Centre, Defence Ministry went ahead with deal despite knowing about involvement of middlemen: petitionersDivision Bench directs respondents to file replies by May 30

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court on Friday issued notices to the Centre, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) on a public interest litigation (PIL) petition seeking a court-monitored investigation into the alleged payment of kickbacks in the Rs. 1,600-crore Scorpene submarine deal last year.

The petitioners Centre for Public Interest Litigation, a non-governmental organisation, and two others urged the court to direct the agency to probe the alleged payment to unauthorised agents or constitute a special investigation group for the purpose.

Taking the petitions on record for consideration, a Division Bench comprising Justice Vijender Jain and Justice S.N. Aggarwal directed the respondents to file replies to the allegation by May 30.

The petitioners alleged that the published reports and primary documents obtained by them prima facie showed that the agreement by the Centre and the Defence Ministry with the French Government and French company Thales on October 7, 2005 to procure the submarine was actuated with mala fide and extraneous considerations.

The Centre and the Ministry went ahead with the deal despite knowing about the involvement of middlemen. The CVC and the Central Vigilance Officer (CVO) of the Ministry had pointed out to them the involvement of unauthorised agents in the deal way back in 2002, the petitioners alleged.

The CVC had informed the Centre that the CVO of the Ministry had blacklisted the manufacturer of the submarine, DCNI, yet the Centre went ahead with the deal, they charged.

Instead of ordering an inquiry into the deal, the Centre ordered a probe into "war room secrets", which had provided clues to the involvement of middlemen in the deal, they submitted.

The petitioners approached the Supreme Court on April 10 this year but the apex court advised them to approach the High Court.