The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has sought the permission of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to question Bimal Julka over the alleged irregularities in the purchase of Tatra trucks for the Army. Julka was joint secretary in the MoD until 2010 and had cleared the purchase of the all-weather trucks. He was later transferred to the Ministry of Finance and is at present financial advisor in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
A CBI official told this newspaper that the agency generally seeks sanctions twice: "Permission is needed from the ministry before starting the formal probe against joint secretaries and above under Section 6A of the Prevention of Corruption Act. And then before prosecution."
It takes a maximum of three months for the ministry to reply. In March last year, the CBI registered a case under Section 120 B of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, against one of the owners of the company, some MoD officials, employees of BEML (state owned Bharat Earth Movers Limited) and Tatra Sipox UK Limited.
The CBI registered a Preliminary Enquiry (PE) in April last year, against BEML and MoD officials, and a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 against Ravinder Kumar Rishi, the owner of the UK-based intermediary, Tatra Sipox.
The CBI's initial inquiry revealed that BEML agreed on a Czechoslovakian firm for supplying Tatra vehicles in 1997, but the contract was fraudulently given to the UK-based Tatra Sipox.
The MoD had purchased 6,477 Tatra trucks for the Indian Army between 1987-88 and 2010-11, with 112 trucks pending supplies.
It was for the first time that the government took cognizance of the alleged irregularities in the purchase of Tatra trucks after former Army chief V.K. Singh said that he was offered a bribe by a retired lieutenant general for clearing these trucks. Julka was moved out of Finance after former Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee became President.