Five Lieutenant Colonels, a Major and a Lieutenant of the Indian Army were among 23 people named by the CBI in an investigation into corruption involving recruitment to the force on Monday following searches in 30 places in 13 cities.
The accused include 17 army personnel in all and six others with “allegations pertaining to bribery and irregularities in recruitment of officers and other ranks through Service Selection Board”, the CBI said.
The agency said the case was registered based on a complaint from the office of Additional Directorate General, Discipline & Vigilance, Adjutant General’s Branch, Integrated HQ of Ministry of Defence (Army).
The senior officers booked by the CBI are Lt Col MVSNA Bhagwan of the Army Air Defence Corps; Lt Col Surender Singh of Service Selection Centre, Kapurthala; Lt Col Y S Chauhan of 6 Mountain Division Ordnance Unit, Bareilly; Lt Col Sukhdev Arora, Joint Director, DG Recruiting, New Delhi; Lt Col Vinay, Group Testing Officer (GTO), Selection Centre South, Bengaluru; and Major Bhavesh Kumar, GTO, Selection Centre North, Kapurthala.
Lt Col MVSNA Bhagwan is alleged to be the mastermind of the recruitment racket, sources said. Several lower-ranking Army officials and relatives of the accused officers have also been booked.
“Searches were conducted today at 30 places including Base Hospital, Cantonment, other Army establishments, civilian areas covering 13 cities, viz. Kapurthala, Bathinda, Delhi, Kaithal, Palwal, Lucknow, Bareilly, Gorakhpur, Visakhapatnam, Jaipur, Guwahati, Jorhat and Chirangon, which led to recovery of several incriminating documents. The documents so recovered during searches are being scrutinized,” a CBI spokesperson said.
The CBI FIR is based on a complaint from Brigadier (Vigilance) V K Purohit, alleging that on February 28, 2021, an input was received about the alleged involvement of serving personnel in accepting bribes for clearance of review medical exam of temporarily rejected officer candidates at the Base Hospital in New Delhi.
The complaint stated that Lt Col Bhagwan, currently on study leave, and Naib Subedar Kuldeep Singh were involved in seeking gratification from potential officer candidates at SSB centres, sources said.
“Indian Army has zero tolerance towards corrupt practices in the recruitment process for selection of suitable candidates for Indian Army. Based on a proactive operation by Army intelligence agencies, a case of possible malpractice in selection procedures at a Services Selection Centre has come to light. Since the scope of investigation involves multiple agencies including civil entities, Indian Army has decided to hand over the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation,” the Army said in a statement.
According to the complaint, Naib Subedar Kuldeep Singh sought assistance from Lt Col Bhagwan for SSB exams “in lieu for money” and “touted aspiring candidates” to him.
Kuldeep Singh also allegedly accepted “monetary gratification” from Havaldar Pawan Kumar for selection of his son in the Service Selection Board. The FIR, based on an investigation conducted by the Army, also cited evidence in the form of financial transactions among the accused, and video footage of packages being exchanged.
Bhagwan is also alleged to have accepted “undisclosed amount of cash” for selection of Lt Navjot Kanwar.
Lt Col Surender Singh is alleged to have “accepted bribe for selection of 10-15 candidates”. Cash transactions for these bribes, the FIR has alleged, were handled by his brother-in-law Bhupender Bajaj, who is a resident of Palam Vihar in Delhi. He too has been named as an accused in the FIR.
Major Bhavesh Kumar has been accused of accepting bribes for 10-11 candidates, while Lt Navjot Singh is alleged to have paid a bribe of Rs 10 lakh for his selection to Lt Col Bhagwan through Naib Subedar Kuldeep Singh.
Lt Col Vinay is alleged to have approached Lt Col Surender Singh for selection of some candidates. The names of Lt Col Chauhan and Lt Col Arora came up during the interrogation of Lt Col Surender Singh.
The complaint also mentions six more officers including Major Amit Fagna, who allegedly assisted rejected candidates in clearing the medical board.