Defence Ministry rejects Bimal Verma’s petition challenging appointment of Navy Chief

The Defence Ministry says the appointment is made considering all norms, asserting that seniority can not be the only criteria for selection

May 18, 2019 07:24 pm | Updated 07:25 pm IST - New Delhi

Vice-Admiral Bimal Verma.

Vice-Admiral Bimal Verma.

The Defence Ministry on Saturday rejected the Vice-Admiral Bimal Verma’s petition challenging the appointment of Vice-Admiral Karambir Singh as the next Navy Chief, overlooking his seniority.

In its order, the Defence Ministry said the appointment was made considering all norms, asserting that seniority can not be the only criteria for selection, according to officials.

Mr. Verma had moved a military tribunal questioning the appointment of Vice-Admiral Singh and the tribunal on April 26 gave three weeks to the Defence Ministry to decide on Mr. Verma’s petition.

The Defence Ministry, in its reply, said a robust selection procedure was followed while appointing the next Navy Chief and that the petitioner is found unsuitable for the top post. The Ministry held that no unsubstantiated, frivolous, extraneous or irrelevant considerations have any bearing on the appointment of the next Navy Chief.

Mr. Verma, the senior-most naval commander, had moved the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) last month after the Defence Ministry did not respond to his statutory complaint against the appointment of Vice-Admiral Singh. The AFT is scheduled to hear the case on Monday. A lawyer of Mr. Verma said the Vice-Admiral will challenge the government’s order rejecting his petition, at the AFT.

Mr. Verma is at present serving as a commander-in-chief of the Andaman and Nicobar Command. He had filed a statutory complaint with the Defence Ministry on April 10, challenging appointment of Mr. Singh, and asked it to respond within 10 days. However, as there was no response from the Ministry, he approached the AFT on April 24.

In his petition, Mr. Verma wondered why he was overlooked for the top post despite being the senior-most in the line of command, terming the government’s decision to appoint Mr. Singh to the post as “wrongful”.

The government had in March named Mr. Singh as the next chief of naval staff, to succeed Admiral Sunil Lanba who retires on May 30. The government made the selection following a merit-based approach and did not go with the tradition of appointing the senior-most eligible officer to the post. Mr. Verma, senior to Mr. Singh, was one among the contenders for the top post.

While appointing the Army chief in 2016, the government did not follow the long-held tradition of going by seniority. Bipin Rawat was appointed as Army chief superseding then Eastern Command Chief Lt. Gen Praveen Bakshi and Southern Command Chief PM Hariz.

Besides Mr. Verma, the other contenders for the Navy Chief post included Vice-Chief of Naval Staff Vice-Admiral G. Ashok Kumar, Flag Officer Commanding in Chief (FOC-in-C) of Western Naval Command Vice-Admiral Ajit Kumar and FOC-in-C of Southern Naval Command Vice-Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla. Mr. Singh, who is at present serving as the FOC-in-C of the Eastern Naval Command in Visakhapatnam will be the first helicopter pilot to become chief of naval staff. Mr. Verma is the brother of former Navy chief Nirmal Kumar Verma.

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