We tried to resolve it as early as possible: ex-official

Amid a raging controversy over the year of birth of the Chief of Army Staff General V.K. Singh, a former top bureaucrat on Friday emphasised that the issue was resolved during his tenure as Defence Secretary and accepted in writing by the General.

“We were extremely mindful of the controversy regarding the date of birth and that it should not be allowed to continue and made every effort to resolve it as early as possible”, Vijay Singh, who had served as the Secretary in the Ministry of Defence between August 2007 and November 2009, told The Hindu here.

Expressing surprise over the development, he said the issue arose around the time the government was considering his name for appointment as an Army Commander.

Besides asking the then Army Chief, Deepak Kapoor, for the correct position, the Ministry also sought a response from Gen. Singh, and received a commitment from him to abide by 1950 as the year of birth, said Mr. Vijay Singh, currently a member of the Union Public Service Commission.

The communication is on records of the Ministry and subsequently taken into consideration when Gen. Singh's appointment as the Chief of Army Staff was being processed.

The controversy, which resurfaced last year, got stirred afresh after the Ministry recently turned down the statutory complaint of Gen. V.K. Singh on the issue. In July last, the Ministry rejected the request for a change after Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati gave an opinion that it be treated as 1950.

While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gently ticked off some MPs who sought to plead Gen. Singh's case suggesting that politicians should not get involved in matters of the military that did not deter his own party member and former Punjab Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh, to write a letter to Dr. Singh last month raising the issue.

However, the Punjab Congress leader clarified he did so in his personal capacity.

The date of birth of Gen. Singh in records of the Adjutant General (AG) is shown as May 10, 1951 instead of May 10, 1950 as in the records of the Military Secretary (MS).

The AG branch is the official record-keeper for salary and pension while the MS branch, is responsible for promotions and postings.

As per rules, the service chief can either serve for three years or till the age of 62, whichever is earlier. Gen. Singh, born on May 10, assumed charged as the Chief of Army Staff on April 1, 2010 from Gen. Kapoor. Any change in the date of birth could result in an extension and alternation in the line of succession.

Confusion prevailed since the school leaving certificate records his date of birth as May 10, 1951 while the Union Public Service Commission application form for National Defence Academy examination recorded it as the previous year.

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