The Chandigarh bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) on Tuesday dismissed Maj Gen TS Handa's petition, in which he had accused former army chief Gen VK Singh (retd) of spoiling his annual confidential reports (ACRs) as he had refused to change his (VK Singh's) date of birth. Gen Singh retired on May 31, while Maj Gen Handa is presently posted at the Army Training Command. Shimla.
The latter had submitted that when he was serving as deputy military secretary (selection boards and complaints) in December 2006, General Singh (then Lt Gen and General Officer Commanding of 2 Corps, Ambala) had asked the military secretary (MS) branch to change his recorded date of birth from May 10, 1950, to May 10, 1951.
"I was the head of the section where it (the case for change of DoB) was to be processed. It was decided against him. That is precisely (why) I was victimised… I was present at the wrong place at the wrong time and I was blown apart," he had submitted in the court during the proceedings.
In July 2007, Maj Gen Handa took over 57 Mountain Division in the north-east. Gen Singh (then Lt Gen) took over as army commander, Eastern Command, on March 1, 2008. He alleged that his ACRs, from July 2, 2007, to June 30, 2008, and July 1, 2008, to October 6, 2008, were spoiled.
Capt Sandeep Bansal (retd), counsel for Gen Singh, had submitted that Handa raised the DoB issue in the statutory complaint, dismissed on February 21, 2011, by the government, as an afterthought and not in a non-statutory complaint, dismissed on June 10, 2010.
The bench comprising justice NP Gupta and Lt Gen NS Brar ruled: "… the petitioner (Handa) was posted as deputy military secretary and in the hierarchy there was additional military secretary, military secretary and Chief of Army Staff who would process and approve/recommend such a case (change of date of birth) to the government.
The petitioner (Handa) would have little or no authority to influence the change of date of birth either way… There is nothing to show that Gen VK Singh had asked the petitioner (Handa) to do anything related to his date of birth or the applicant (Handa) had declined to do anything. The whole argument has been built upon the media perceiving the military secretary branch to be responsible for not changing the date of birth and is based on apprehensions and beliefs."
The judgment further said, "It is pertinent to note that the issue of date of birth and bias was not raised in the non-statutory complaint. It came up subsequently in the statutory complaint when the issue had become a major controversy with full-blown media coverage." It added that raising the controversy as grounds for spoiling of ACRs was an attempt to derive mileage from an ongoing controversy.
Gen Singh had expressed displeasure to Handa for recommending the transfer of a woman lieutenant in 2008. A retired air officer had called up the brigade commander of 59 Mountain Division and levelled allegations of her being involved in a sex racket and that he had helped her in an illegal abortion. The brigade commander raised the matter with his superior, Maj Gen Handa, who took up the case of her posting with the MS branch, army headquarters.
The judgment said the brigade commander accepted the stories without any documented evidence and Handa took up the case of her transfer without any independent verification or reference to his immediate superior and ruled that it was mishandling, as also concluded by Gen Singh.
On grading of ACRs, the court said there was nothing adverse in the ACRs and earlier also Handa had been graded 7 and that did not come in his way of his claimed outstanding career profile, selections and promotions.
Handa had also alleged that he was about to get a distinguished service award, but Gen Singh did not forward it. The judgment said, "Initiation of a citation does not necessarily result in an award and the award cannot also be claimed as a right." It added, "… non-culmination of an award cannot be attributed to any vested interest or bias of one individual."
Maj Gen Handa is a recipient of the Sena Medal and two Chief of Staff Commendation Cards. He passed out 11th in order of merit from the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, in 1974. While he was posted as GOC, 57 Mountain Division, the army carried out the first successful operation in Loktak lake (Manipur), where eight militants were killed in September 2008.