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Updated: January 21, 2012 01:45 IST

Age cannot be fixed through a PIL, says Chief Justice

J. Venkatesan
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A file photo of Army chief General V.K. Singh. He has filed a petition before the Supreme Court seeking a direction to the government that his date of birth be treated as 10.5.1951 and not 1950.
The Hindu
A file photo of Army chief General V.K. Singh. He has filed a petition before the Supreme Court seeking a direction to the government that his date of birth be treated as 10.5.1951 and not 1950.

The Supreme Court on Friday frowned on the Grenadiers' Association, Rohtak chapter, for filing a PIL seeking a declaration that Army Chief V.K. Singh's date of birth was May 10, 1951 as mentioned in his school leaving certificate.

Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia, heading a three-judge Bench, made it clear that the court would not go into the merits of the case. The Bench included Justice A.K. Patnaik and Justice Swatanter Kumar.

The CJI told petitioner's counsel Bhim Singh: “Show us the law under which we can do this. We will not go into the facts. The person, who has the right to approach, his case will stand on its own legs. We will be setting a bad precedent if we deal with this in a PIL.”

Justice Kapadia told Mr. Singh: “Tomorrow PILs will be filed asking us to determine the rights of other parties. All sorts of conflicts will arise. It will be chaotic. It will ultimately be a travesty of justice for that person [whose interests are adversely affected].”

However, Mr. Singh persisted with his arguments contending that public opinion and perception was involved in this case.

The CJI retorted and told counsel that the court was not concerned with public opinion. He said: “Argue in law where a personal cause of action is pending here, how can we fix the age of a person in a PIL. The individual [concerned] has filed a petition.”

Justice Kapadia also took exception to the petitioner annexing the opinions of four former CJIs of the Supreme Court in support of the Army Chief's case. “This is improper,” he said, directing the Registry henceforward not to list petitions which annexed such opinions.

Mr. Singh persisted in his arguments and said that the one million-strong ex-servicemen in the country were agitated by this issue. He said: “The whole nation is waiting for an answer.”

The CJI, however, told counsel: “We can understand if the person who is affected is here. We have to go by the law. The person affected has to come to court. Can we change the date of birth in a PIL filed by an Association?”

Justice Patnaik told counsel: “We cannot make a departure from the law. Newspaper headlines do not make a PIL.” Since it was a service matter, it could be agitated only by the affected party and not by a third party, Justice Patnaik added.

To that, Mr. Singh said: “The case concerns the whole country. Once the Ministry of Law has made a recommendation [accepting Gen. Singh's date of birth as May 10, 1951], how can the Ministry of Defence reject it?”

Justice Patnaik observed “superannuation” and “date of birth” were service matters. “If we do this, we will be setting a very bad precedent.” Mr. Singh countered saying; “Can Ministry of Defence change the opinion of the Law Ministry? There has been miscarriage of justice in this case.”

When the Bench showed disinclination to entertain the petition, Mr. Singh sought withdrawal of the petition, but the Bench dismissed it.

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General Singh, many a time during his service, requested correction of his date of birth. It was not corrected. Does it mean it should remain so? I do not know if General Singh can produce at this stage a birth certificate from the hospital or extracts from the Birth and Death Register maintained by the Village Musif if his birth was registered at the time of his birth. General Singh has no other go except to approach the Supreme Court who cannot wash off their hands but to afford justice for which the Court is established. Whether or not he wishes to continue for a year more to serve the country, definitely he is entitled to all the benefits as though he continued in his service till next year.

from:  T.S. Vaidyanathan
Posted on: Jan 22, 2012 at 05:52 IST

It is not merely a question of date of birth. It is a question of
character, morals, values and dependability of a person who was
entrusted with the greatest job. How can a government continue to
repose confidence in a person, who is going back on written
commitments made not long ago. To blame X, Y, Z for the mistakes
committed or written undertakings is nothing but a sin. The government
should have summarily sacked The Chief of Army Staff V K Singh and
boldly justified its actions, instead of allowing it be placed in an
embarrassing situation.

from:  K V Laxmi Prasad
Posted on: Jan 21, 2012 at 20:31 IST

I don't undrerstand why this Kolaveri Di? This is purely a personal matter for the army chief. What improvement in the system can we expect if he continues for one more year or what is the harm to the government if he stays. Why should all of us bear the headache on their egoistic tussle?

from:  Bikram Mishra
Posted on: Jan 21, 2012 at 20:17 IST

Army in India has always been a honourary figure and the chief of this institution should be revered utmost.As its obvious here that the handling of this vital issue has been reckless on the part of MoD even though VK Singh many times during his service asked for the clarification of the mistaken dob.It's truely a matter of honour for a man who served the country for his entire life and should be looked genuinely by SC rather than rejecting the plea on mere basis of law not supporting such PIL.It would be really shameful if SC could not come up with a justifiable decision and really embarassing for the integrity of our armed forces.

from:  sunil
Posted on: Jan 21, 2012 at 17:10 IST

This is a delicate matter as we are not dealing with 1 individual but the entire defence personnel. Defence ministry should have handled it properly and not have allowed to come to such a situation (senseless politicians & this is a black mark on Antony). I am sure SC would give the verdict in the army chief's favour and there by keeping the moral of our defence forces up.

from:  K Stephen Daniel
Posted on: Jan 21, 2012 at 16:42 IST

I completely say, if Gen. VK singh has already sought the inquiry into this during his service, then it could be lack of discipline. If there is any proof that he has sought enquiry into it, then people who had not proceeded further should be punished.

from:  Mohsin Pervez
Posted on: Jan 21, 2012 at 16:22 IST

In army irregularities are many and it is more than in civil service because here the man is treated like animal Does army treat , the the common solider as a common man of equal rights? No because there is muscle power and power only.
Today the chief is crying of a small issue. I as an officer in army came out of it without any pensionary benefits, though I have served 20 years in AMC as Major. I came without any penitentiary benefits or any disability pension though I got IHD in an field exercise. I was denied the pension and disability pension etc for w wrong reason. I appeal to he chief and he bypass the issue with a flimsy reason.
Now he is fighting for his own battle keeping the the gun on others shoulder.

from:  prasanta
Posted on: Jan 21, 2012 at 15:28 IST

If in school records DOB is 1951, then a mere mistake of mentioning it as 1950 while applying for for army post is a primafacie mistake. VK singh has right to be in office for one more year. It would be injustice if Ministry of defence would not grant additional one year. As per news reports VK singh has sought this rectification many a times during his service. This shows that Indian army lacks in disciplne because this error should have been rectified in the first instance when VK Singh sought its rectification. It will bad for indian history that army chief was denied his right by MOD; and even the worst scenario is Supreme Court rejecting his plea.

Posted on: Jan 21, 2012 at 13:48 IST
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