Coffins for Army gathering dust over procedural wrangles
■ The consignment remains in court as the auditor in its observation said, ‘‘there is a need to check at what prices the company supplied the same products to Indian Army and US Army at the same time.”
PROCEDURAL wrangles have held up handing over of nearly 900 body bags to Army lying unused for the past 17 years.
The body bags are gathering dust in a warehouse of Patiala House court as the CBI had conducted a decade long investigation into alleged coffins scam, which had erupted during the tenure of the Vajpayee Government at the Centre.
“On July 27, 1999 Operation Vijay was concluded and a contract with a foreign company (USbased Buitron and Baiza company) was signed on August 2, 1999 for procurement of 3,000 body bags and 500 aluminium caskets. Around four lakh dollars were paid to that company from Indian exchequer,” Army sources said. The deal was signed for the delivery caskets of 18 kgs of each but it supplied each casket of 55 kg.
When the concerned Indian authority raised the issue, the company pressed for change in contract but the Govt didn’t allow any alteration into it and rather preferred for its cancellation in August 2001. Within days, a controversy erupted pertaining to the procurement transaction and the opposition parties led by Congress vociferously raised the issue in Parliament. “There was no loss in entire transaction to the Govt,” the sources added.
After 12 years of intensive probe, the CBI court gave a cleanchit to the Government in 2013 and found mentioning of 18 kgs in the deal was a typo error. In March 2017, SC passed an order for the Ministry of Defence to take back the consignment of 900 body bags and 150 caskets from the Patiala House court.
But it remains in court as the auditor in its observation said, ‘‘there is a need to check at what prices the company supplied the same products to Indian Army and US Army at the same time.”