Army chief General VK Singh will have to retire next year.
That's because the government's top law officer, attorney general GE Vahanvati, has advised the defence ministry against accepting any change in his date of birth.
Vahanvati's legal opinion, endorsed by law minister M Veerappa Moily, is set to put an end to the controversy created by two conflicting dates of birth in Singh's dossiers - May 10, 1950 and May 10, 1951.
Singh's stand has been that his year of birth was incorrectly mentioned as 1950 in his National Defence Academy form, based on information given by his school clerk.
But in 2008, he gave an unconditional commitment accepting 1950 as the year of his birth and reiterated this commitment in November 2009.
Vahanvati is learnt to have cited army rules that debar any correction in date of birth after two years of joining service. Singh joined the army in 1970, but the conflicting dates existed in his records until 2006.
The attorney general stated that acceptance of the DoB that showed Singh as a year younger could lead to a deluge of litigation by top officers whose careers would be affected. Vahanvati cited several Supreme Court judgments to back his opinion.
Defence minister AK Antony will take a final call on whether Singh retires next year or in 2013. The AG's advice reverses the law ministry's previous opinion that the chief's argument - that 1951 be considered his year of birth, as mentioned in his matriculation certificate - be accepted.
The controversy arose in January, when the army sought legal opinion on the matter following a right to information query. On February 14, the law ministry gave its controversial opinion, which, it emerged, had overlooked army rules and vital documents that showed Singh as a year older.
HT's investigation showed that army records contradicted Singh's attempts to show himself as a year younger. Singh claimed he was granted provisional entry in the army in 1970 as his school certificate arrived only a year later.
However, confidential papers showed Singh's commission was not provisional. In fact, he topped the list of cadets assigned to infantry.