The controversy swirling around army chief General VK Singh's date of birth (DoB) deepened further on Saturday, with the law ministry raising serious objections to the army's decision to seek private opinion (from two former chief justices) on the sensitive issue.
In a hard hitting opinion, the second within a month, the ministry reaffirmed its view that Singh's DoB should be May 10, 1950 and not May 10, 1951.
It also raised serious objections to his claim that his application form to join the armed forces was filled by his teacher.
This opinion follows the army's decision to directly refer the matter to former chief justices of India JS Verma and GB Pattnaik, after the law ministry's first opinion.
The ministry has endorsed the latest opinion of its top law officer, attorney general GE Vahanvati, that General Singh's claim that his application form for the National Defence Academy (NDA) was not filled by him was not legally tenable.
Vahanvati is understood to have pointed out that the NDA form filled by Singh clearly states that it has been filled by the applicant himself and bears his signature.
"Further, there is an undertaking on the form that the entire information furnished is true according to the firm belief of the applicant," states the opinion.
Putting Singh further in a difficult position is the law ministry's reliance on the army rules of 1954, which state that any change in the date of birth can only be entertained within two years of joining service.
Singh was commissioned in the army in 1970 but it was only in 2006 that the military branch asked him about the two dates of birth in his official records.
Further, it has been pointed out that the army list of officers published for 1974-75 also mentioned 1950 as his year of birth.
"This contradicts the claim of the gentleman (General Singh) that after getting his school leaving certificate in 1971, he had got his date of birth immediately corrected in the army records."
"How is it that the gentleman took three promotions on his 1950 date of birth which took him to a senior position in the army and later realised that the date was wrong?" the department of legal affairs has questioned.
The legal arm of the government has also drawn the defence ministry's attention to the two undertakings given by General Singh in 2008 and 2009 that he would abide by the army's decision on treating 1950 as his year of birth.
The law ministry has also raised questions on the army's decision to seek an opinion directly from a legal advisor without its approval on the Right to Information (RTI) query on General Singh's date of birth in February this year.
It has also objected to the army directly referring the matter to two former chief justices.
"There was no variance in any of the opinions tendered by the law ministry. The entire confusion arose with the RTI query having been replied to on a legal matter without the approval of the law secretary and the minister," the law ministry stated.