Missing file not to impact combat plane deal: Antony

Last Updated: Mon, Jan 31, 2011 12:10 hrs

New Delhi, Jan 31 (IANS) The $10-billion tender for 126 combat planes the Indian Air Force wants to buy will progress unhindered as no secret relating to the deal was compromised due to a file which went missing recently, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said here Monday.

The file with details on the offsets proposal of the six competing aircraft manufacturers went missing in the last week of December 2010 and was later recovered from the roadside on Khelgaon Marg in south Delhi.

Antony told reporters that the defence ministry and the air force's probe report maintained that 'nothing sensitive was compromised' from the secret file on medium-multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) and hence the process to procure the 126 fighter jets would continue.

The minister earlier presented the Republic Day awards to the best marching contingents and tableaux in the parade

'We have received the (Defence Ministry) report. All the agencies including the air force have reported that nothing was compromised regarding the procurement of the MMRCA. So, hereafter MMRCA acquisition process will again start,' Antony said.

'It will take some time. Who will get the deal, I can't say now. The process has started again after the inquiry report was submitted and it will take a few more months,' he said when asked when the contract for the aircraft would be signed.

On the Adarsh Housing Society issue, Antony said the CBI had given a report in a sealed cover to the Mumbai High Court and that the defence ministry was waiting to hear from the investigating agency.

He said the guilty in the scam would not be spared. 'That's why we preferred a CBI inquiry. The moment we get the report we will take action,' he added.

The 31-storey apartment building of the Adarsh Society had come up on army land in upmarket Colaba in Mumbai raising security concerns for the military establishments nearby.

The CBI filed its first information report in the case Jan 29 in which former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan and several former army officers are named.

Asked if he was satisfied with the punishment awarded by an army court martial to former 33 Corps chief Lieutenant General P.K. Rath in the Sukna land scam, Antony said: 'The matter is being dealt with by the army and unless I see the reports I cannot say anything.'

The court martial had awarded Rath loss of two years seniority, loss of 15 years for pension and severe reprimand for issuing a no-objection certificates to a private realtor to construct an educational institution on 70 acres of land adjacent to the Sukna military station.