‘Military Secretary Branch has no jurisdictional authority on the issue as per regulations of the Army'
Army Chief General V. K. Singh's battle over his age intensified on Sunday with the Army headquarters insisting that the date of birth mentioned in his matriculation certificate could not be ignored while the Defence Ministry had rejected his contention.
The Army Chief has two different dates of birth in records. The Military Secretary (MS) branch shows it to be May 10, 1950, whereas the Adjutant General's (AG) branch shows it to be May 10, 1951. His matriculation certificate also shows it to be May 10, 1951.
“Unauthorised and illegal”
The Ministry has declared as “null and void and non est” and “unauthorised and illegal” the change in the date of birth to May 10, 1951 in Gen. Singh's service records made by the AG branch in February this year.
The Army's Additional Director-General (Public Information) told PTI that “the value of a matriculation certificate can't be wished away.” He said the Ministry had arrived at its decision on the basis of what it was told by the MS Branch which had no jurisdiction on such issues.
“The custodian of records at the Army Headquarters is the AG's branch; the MS Branch has no jurisdictional authority on the issue as per regulations of the Army and the charter given to each branch,” he said.
The ADG (PI) said the “confusion” on the date of birth issue “has occurred because the AG's branch has not been consulted.”
The Army official said the enquiry (in 2008), which was asked for by the Defence Ministry, “was never conducted at that time by Army Headquarters as it would have punctured the claims of the then Military Secretary.”
“This confusion was further compounded because the MS Branch did not correct its records from those maintained by the AG, despite the AG's Branch writing to the MS in earlier years,” the official said.
Asserting that “acceptance and admission” must be supported by valid documents without which they have no value, the ADG (PI) said the “value of a matriculation certificate can't be wished away.”
Gen. Singh had petitioned the Ministry to change his date of birth to May 10, 1951, which will give him an extra 10 months in service.
The Defence Ministry, after taking opinion of the Attorney-General and the Law Ministry and considering records made available to it earlier by the Army, rejected his plea on July 21.
The Ministry contended that Gen. Singh had given a written acceptance on January 30, 2008 that he would maintain date of birth as May 10, 1950.
“The officer had further accepted this in writing unconditionally vide his letter dated January 31, 2008,” it said.
The AG's branch has now sought clarification from the Defence Ministry on the legal justification of its order and has not yet changed Gen. Singh's date of birth in its records.
The Army Chief has also filed a statutory complaint to Defence Minister A. K. Antony against the Ministry's decision to reject his contention.