Army Chief loses age war

BUSINESS AS USUAL: Even as he lost his plea on the DoB issue in court, General V.K. Singh arrived in Jaipur on Friday to review the operational preparedness of the South Western Command. On his return to New Delhi, he will go on a five-day visit to Britain starting February 13. Here he is received by Lt. Gen. Gyan Bhusan, Commander, South Western Command.  

In a setback to General V.K. Singh, the Supreme Court on Friday refused to intervene in his plea, pointing out that the Army Chief, who accepted the government's decision in determining his date of birth as May 10, 1950 on three occasions, could not go back on his commitment. His writ petition was disposed of as withdrawn.

A Bench of Justices R.M. Lodha and H.L. Gokhale, however, made it clear that the question raised by Gen. Singh was not about the determination of his actual DoB but it concerned the recognition of a particular DoB by the Defence Ministry in the official service record.

The Bench recorded Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati's statement that the government had not questioned the Army Chief's integrity or bona fides. It was resisting the petition as a matter of principle and doing so would not mean lack of faith in his ability to lead the Army, Mr. Vahanvati said. “We hope and pray this won't be the end of his service.”

The Bench said that in view of the AG's statement, counsel for the petitioner did not want to press the matter further and the writ petition was disposed of as withdrawn.

The Bench declined counsel Uday Lalit's plea that General Singh's DoB be treated as May 10, 1951. It, however, made it clear that the disposal of the petition would not cause any prejudice to the Army General and the government decision on his date of birth would continue to remain. In view of this, he will have to retire on May 31, 2012.

Earlier, when the hearing resumed in the morning, the AG informed the court that the government's December 30, 2011 order rejecting Gen. Singh's statutory complaint on the age issue might be treated as withdrawn. He, however, said the government stood by its July 2011 decision to treat Gen. Singh's DoB as May 10, 1950.

Justice Lodha told counsel that the UPSC and IMA forms had recorded Gen. Singh's DoB as May 10, 1950. Even in the Presidential order of 1974-75, when the Army List of Commissioned officers was published, “your DoB is shown as May 10, 1950. We are not questioning your efforts to reconcile the records. You have to abide by your commitment and honour your letters of 2008 and 2009 accepting the date of birth as May 10, 1950.”

Unfair criticism

Justice Gokhale told counsel: “The government gave you an opportunity. It is not fair to criticise the Defence Ministry. The matter was treated as closed. They [government] made you Chief of the Army. They could have said ‘we don't need such a person'.”

Justice Lodha told counsel that the court could interfere in such decisions only if the order suffered from perversity or it was grossly erroneous. “We don't think in this case we should interfere. We want to ensure [that] as Chief of Army you continue to serve the country as you did for 38 years. This verdict should not come in your way. Wise men are those who move with the wind. We take pride in having [an] officer like you. Credit must go to you.”

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Printable version | May 5, 2021 2:22:23 AM |

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