New Delhi, Sep 3:Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed an FIR against a former brigadier, lieutenant colonel, and a colonel, alleging their involvement in corruption to assist two private firms in establishing seven Cell Towers on Wheels (CoWs) on A-1 Category land in the Kanpur cantonment area.
They have also been accused of fabricating reports and the FIR has been registered against former Brigadier Naveen Singh, Lt. Col R.P. Ram, and Col Dushyant Singh. Indus Towers Limited, based in Lucknow, and Indus Towers Limited, based in Gurugram have also been implicated in the FIR.
A senior CBI official said that they received reliable information that Brigadier Naveen Singh, while serving as the ex-officio chairman of the Cantonment Board, Kanpur, facilitated the establishment of seven Cell Towers on Wheels (CoWs) on A-1 Category land in the Cantonment Area of Kanpur, grossly violating the Ministry of Defence's guidelines.
The circular in question outlined the issuance of leases on defence land for mobile static towers and licenses for the use of defence land for placing CoWs through Expression of Interest (EoI) to be invited by the Cantonment Board in a Cantonment Area and Station HQ Area in a Military Station.
The bids were supposed to be invited through a competitive bidding process for lease of defence land, with the highest bid accepted by the Station Commander through an open tender. The lease rent was to be determined based on the highest bid through this competitive process, and it was envisaged in the circular to take advance rent for a year from the successful bidder.
The FIR also alleges that Brigadier Naveen Singh did not establish any Board to decide the locations of CoWs, which would have allowed Cellular Operators to establish CoWs in locations suitable to them, and the revenue generated from these CoWs was not deposited in the government exchequer but is suspected to have been siphoned off.
To investigate these allegations, a Joint Surprise Check was conducted on August 30, 2019, in the Kanpur Cantonment Board area, along with officials from Central Command, Lucknow.
During the joint surprise check, it was revealed that the representative of Indus Towers Limited, Lucknow, disclosed that his company had not paid any rent for the establishment of seven CoWs, but they had recently deposited the land rent.
However, he was under obligation to his client, i.e., Station Head Quarter, Kanpur, and therefore, he was unable to share the documents with the CBI.
Consequently, the conduct of Indus Towers did not inspire confidence, and there was a possibility of extending undue favors and improperly performing public duties by suspected public servants by abusing their official positions to gain an advantage from Indus Tower Limited.
The CBI also learned that Lieutenant Colonel (Lt. Col) R.P. Ram, who was the then Station Staff Officer of Station Commander, Station HQ, Kanpur, allowed Indus Towers Limited to establish CoWs on a trial basis for six months, after which a tender was to be floated.
Initially, Indus Tower Limited installed towers at two locations, but subsequent approval from then Station Commander Brigadier Naveen Singh was communicated by Lt. Col Ram for the installation of these towers at seven locations.
Indus Towers Limited deposited an amount of Rs 26,40,750 towards rent in August 2019, whereas the towers were installed in August 2018 and were still operational on the date of the joint surprise check.
Although the circular specified taking advance rent for a year, in this case, the communication for depositing rent was issued from June 27, 2019. It also emerged during the joint search that the proposal for the installation of towers was submitted by Indus Towers Limited on September 8, 2016, and a letter dated May 24, 2018, was issued by Lt. Col Ram for Station Commander, Station HQ, Kanpur, related to this matter.
The FIR further alleges that the proposals submitted by the two telecom companies were not properly considered, and false reports were sent to higher-ups.
The CBI is currently investigating the matter.