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Updated: April 23, 2012 19:24 IST

SC refuses to interfere in appointment of Army Chief

PTI
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Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh, designated as the next Chief of Army Staff, at a Defence Investiture ceremony reception in New Delhi recently. Photo: Shanker Chakravarty
The Hindu
Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh, designated as the next Chief of Army Staff, at a Defence Investiture ceremony reception in New Delhi recently. Photo: Shanker Chakravarty

The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a PIL challenging the appointment of Lt Gen Bikram Singh as the next Army Chief but made it clear that its order would not affect any pending proceedings against him in cases including an alleged encounter in Jammu and Kashmir.

The court also refused to reopen the age controversy relating to incumbent Army Chief Gen V.K. Singh when the petitioners raked up the issue, saying it has already been settled by the court.

Before refusing to interfere with the government’s decision on the successor to Gen V.K. Singh, a bench of justices R.M. Lodha and H.L. Gokhale sought for a government file on Gen Bikram Singh’s appointment and went through it in the post-lunch session.

After going through the confidential report, the court said the government had considered various allegations against him before clearing his appointment and opined “there is no justiciable ground” for hearing the PIL challenging his appointment.

“We have carefully gone through the averments made in the petitions. We do not find any justiciable ground to entertain the petition,” the bench said while dismissing the PIL filed by a bunch of top retired bureaucrats, including a Naval Chief, challenging his appointment.

“It is made clear that dismissal of the petition shall not affect any legal pending proceedings in court or any other forum,” the bench said.

The petitioners, including former Naval Chief Admiral L Ramdas and former Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswamy, challenged the appointment by levelling various allegation against him including his role in the fake encounter in J&K in 2001 and his questionable role during a UN peace keeping mission in 2008 in Congo.

The bench, which at the outset refused to hold in-camera proceeding in the case, went through the confidential file regarding the appointment and found that the government had considered these and various other allegations against him but was given clean chit.

“Not only three but as a matter of fact there are many allegations which were collected from various sources. Reasons have been given by the government (in clearing Singh’s name),” the court said after going through the file.

Opposing the plea of the petitioners that system was manipulated for making Singh as Army Chief, the government placed the record of entire proceeding which led to clearance of Singh’s name as next Army Chief.

Attorney General G E Vahanvati said that matter was considered by various authorities including Prime Minister, Home Minister, Defence Minister and the Intelligence bureau before his name was cleared.

During the arguments, the bench asked the petitioner not to make “bald” allegation and asked for the documentary proof.

“What documents do you have? It amounts to maligning our armed forces without documents. All these bald allegation can put at stake someone’s career,” the bench remarked when advocate Kamini Jaiswal, appearing for the petitioners, mentioned allegations against the Armed Forces on Congo mission.

“It is not desirable to read out,” the bench said while restraining Jaiswal.

The petitioners, including veteran journalist Sam Rajapa and social activist M G Devasahayam, alleged that Lt Gen Singh is facing court of inquiry for his to take action against officers who were involved in sexual harassment and rape, when they were posted to Congo in 2008 as part of the UN peace— keeping mission and the case of face encounter is still pending in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.

The government had on March 3 announced the appointment of Lt Gen Bikram Singh as the next Army chief.

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In consonance with general erosion of concept of values in social
life,the once most dignified profession in army has declined but risk
and rigors have rather multiplied.Ethics have been placed in a back
seat and consequently OLQ youths shun this profession.In an
atmosphere polluted by grafts any young man with strong backbone and
strong character do not like to join this profession.He may even be
caught in wrong trap however much he tries to remain true to his
ethics. People in charge of their administration should should try to
uphold prestige and honour of the people who keep constant vigil for
saving our country.If situation demands discipline and decorum must be
maintained at any cost.

from:  swapan
Posted on: Apr 24, 2012 at 14:14 IST

The Supreme Court is an inclusive part of the so-called cultural limitation we Indians find ourselves in. Right from school days, where the 'yes Sir/yes Mam' culture is breeded-in. It continues unabated till most Indians die. The lack of courage, and the will to say 'no', and to decry the authority figures, whether they be your Parents, or Teachers, or your Employers,or what have you, leads to deficient critical thinking aptitude. More over just having critical thinking on an academic level is dangerous, as it cannot be applied upon. The same goes with our Legal System, where the larger question is 'How can one challenge the authority', especially when perks are given by the Government in Power. Moreover Supreme Court, as i have mentioned before as well, has already set a bad precedent during emergency where most Judges stood in favor of Indira's decision, and against public interest. Some Judges are quite laudable, but that is not enough. We Indians need guts, and change badly. Amen.

from:  Sunit Jang Bahadur
Posted on: Apr 24, 2012 at 10:28 IST

Few things happening at the same time give me the jitters:
1) Former Army chief's age row
2) Newly appointed army chief's appointment being questioned.
3) News that the army's artillery is dated.
4) China's build up of forces in the border.
All this leads me to question if there is some external force involved.
I agree that the basic quality of individuals in public domain has gone down. But where has it not happened? Or is it just that in the information age, we can get info that we could not in the past?
Does anyone else agree or am I being a paranoid here?

from:  Karthick S
Posted on: Apr 24, 2012 at 07:14 IST

Indian institutions have been on a downward spiral for some time. The difference is that now it is on public display. The PIL was lodged by individuals of stature, some of who have been institutions in themselves. Please grant that these individulas thought the matter over deeply before submitting the PIL. Shame on Bikram Singh to accept the position, to let down his beloved institution and to rat out colleagues for personal myopic gain? It would be revealing to take an inter-temporal stock of his financial and non-financial assets. To be clear - promotions in the Armed Forces are based on merit, not age. So if Gen. V K Singh was a young and clean COAS, why was the ruling government so keen to not extend his term. I wish someone would give me a plausible explanation without obfuscating the issue. I am surprised that the Supreme Court ruled against his extension and threw out the PIL. I would love to read their arguments

from:  Amar
Posted on: Apr 23, 2012 at 20:29 IST

I do agree with Mr.Bhimji. Petty PIL cases filed with intention of
settling some petty scores should not be entertained by either Supreme
court or High courts of India. Petitioners of such PIL cases warrant a
heavy penalty for wasting the time of the court

from:  m.Shiva Kumar
Posted on: Apr 23, 2012 at 19:40 IST

In the past officers with a high standard of OLQ (Officer Like
Qualities) were recruited. Today the standards have been
brought down due to paucity of applicants. The results are there
for everybody to see. The kind of incidents senior officers are
involved in shows a genuine lack of OLQ all around. Of course
partly the politicians and bureaucrats are to blame as many of
them are in the thick of corruption. Climbing up the steep
ladder of promotion is quite a task but those who achieve it
often do not do so in a fair manner.

from:  S N IYER
Posted on: Apr 23, 2012 at 19:22 IST

I am surprised that the SC even entertained such motivated petition and astounded that no penalty was imposed on the petitioners for hogging court time.No wonder SC has so much of backlog of cases. Bogus NGOs,fake interest groups waste SC's time.As for Gen VKS, the army should give him a fitting farewell so that he would not muddle the forces'name again.

from:  bhimji
Posted on: Apr 23, 2012 at 18:47 IST

Retd Admiral Ramdas should enjoy his days of retirement instead of butting his nose in every little affairs that end up weaking India's defense forces. It is time to move on from Gen. VK Singh age saga and welcome the incoming chief of army General Bikram Singh!

from:  Jitendra Dutta
Posted on: Apr 23, 2012 at 18:12 IST

The latest is that the SC has rejected the PIL, citing that in such matters it cannot interfere. The court has just closed the lid on the simmering pot. The lid is likely to fall off letting the steam out. Bikram Singh will not be able to command respect, either within the the army or in the public domain. Anthony, as the MOD, could have prevented this happening. Everyone is aware that he was very much inclined but was prevented by his senior colleagues, for obvious reasons.Now there is every likelihood of the government being put on the mat like in the case of CVC Thomas's case.

from:  Ramamurthi
Posted on: Apr 23, 2012 at 17:50 IST

Govt cannot be questioned on every move. As far as gen VK singh is
concerned 'The chickens have come home to Roost'.......

from:  SANJAY
Posted on: Apr 23, 2012 at 15:02 IST
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