Unprecedented: State Defence Firm To Sue Just Retired Indian Army Chief

This has never happened before. Nothing even close. The Chairman of Indian state-owned defence contractor BEML said today that he planned to sue General Vijay Kumar Singh, who retired as Chief of Army Staff yesterday, for defamation. The Indian Army is BEML's single biggest customer. The provocation, strangely belated, appears to be the official Army statement and on-camera comments, first on a potential Tatra truck scam, and now a potential scam in the procurement of WZT-3 armoured recovery vehicles from Poland's Bumar, via partner BEML. General Singh has scoffed at the demand for an apology and threat to sue.

The uneasy relations between public sector defence firm management and the armed forces is not new (most notably apparent in IAF-HAL relations), but never before have things precipitated to such a level -- past Chief have usually sniped at their suppliers through testimony in Parliament or to the National Auditor. Never before has an armed forces chief come out in the open to question both the quality of a product supplied by a state-owned company, and, more importantly, question the manner in which they were supplied. What I find interesting is that the BEML chairman chose to wait until the Army chief had retired before actually holding his press conference and announcing his plans to sue.

While the Tatra and ARV procurements will be investigated, it is certainly true that there is little accountability in the foreign partnerships and tendering norms at state-owned defence firms.

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