New Delhi: Former army chief Gen VK Singh and four top serving officers were today summoned as “accused” in a criminal defamation case filed by Lt Gen (retd) Tejinder Singh, in perhaps the first occasion when top-ranking officials have been called by a court.

Besides Gen VK Singh, the other four named in the complaint and have been summoned are Vice Chief of Army Staff SK Singh, Lt Gen BS Thakur (DGMI), Major General SL Narshiman (Additional Director General of Public Information) and Lt Col Hitten Sawhney, accusing them of misusing their official positions, power and authority to level false charges against him.

A Delhi court directed them to appear before it on July 20.

Metropolitan Magistrate Jay Thareja said all the five have been “summoned as accused in the present matter”.

The court, however, said the summons are only for the alleged offence of defamation as the allegation of hatching a criminal conspiracy appears to be “absurd”.

“However, it is made clear that the accused are not being summoned qua the allegation of hatching a criminal conspiracy against the complainant (Tejinder Singh).

“Upon appreciating the entire evidence and material produced before this court, the allegation regarding hatching of a criminal conspiracy by respondents appears to be absurd and without any foundation.

“The accused are only being summoned qua offence as described under section 499 (defamation) read with section 35 (act done with criminal knowledge or intention) of the IPC,” the Magistrate said.

Tejinder Singh had filed the complaint alleging that he was defamed by the Army through its press release issued on March 5, which accused him of offering a bribe of Rs14 crore to the erstwhile Army chief.

The court directed Tejinder Singh to file a process fee along with copies of the complaint and documents within one week of the re-opening of the court on June 21.

“Upon filing of the process fee, copies of the complaints and the documents, the accused shall be summoned for July 20,” the court said.

The court had earlier directed the Defence Ministry to place before it the file related to the issuance of the March 5 press release to ascertain whether or not, the five persons accused of defaming Tejinder Singh had any role in it.

Tejinder Singh had been accused of offering bribe of Rs14 crore to Gen VK Singh for clearing a deal for 600 trucks, a charge strongly refuted by the former.

The press release blamed Tejinder Singh, former chief of the Defence Intelligence Agency, and some disgruntled serving officers of the Military Intelligence for planting story in the media relating to purported tapping of some sensisitive phones in the capital.

The file pertaining to the press release was submitted to the court by Defence Ministry’s Under Secretary R Sunder. The court had also recorded his statement during an in-camera proceeding in which he said some of the documents placed were “privileged.”

Earlier, the court had said it was “prima facie” satisfied that the March 5 press release was defamatory” as “ex-facie” serious allegation of “bribery” has been made against Tejinder Singh, who had a long and distinguished career in the Army.