Even as controversy continued to rage over army chief Gen VK Singh's date of birth, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today steered clear of making any comment, contending that the matter was "sensitive".
His evasiveness on the issue came on the eve of hearing by the Supreme Court of a petition filed by a private organisation in support of Gen Singh. It was not clear whether a petition filed by Gen Singh himself would come up on Friday.
"It is a sensitive issue. I do not want to comment," the Prime Minister said on the sidelines of a function to launch the book 'The Tribune 130 (rpt) 130 Years: A Witness to History.
He was asked about the controversy surrounding the age of army chief who has dragged the government to the Supreme Court to seek a direction that his date of birth on military records be treated as May 10, 1951 and not 1950.
Meanwhile, the army chief met minister of state for defence MM Pallam Raju this afternoon, a day after the latter expressed unhappiness over the matter being taken to court.
It was not clear as to what transpired at the unscheduled meeting between Raju and Gen Singh but it is believed to have been arranged to clarify things.
"It is an unfortunate development and it is not a healthy precedent either for the (Defence) Ministry or the armed forces... It is an unhealthy precedent. It does not auger well either for the Ministry or the forces," Raju had said on Wednesday while reacting to a question on the issue.
Gen Singh moved the Supreme Court on Monday challenging the government's rejection of his claim on his date of birth. The Defence Ministry had recently rejected his contention that he was born in 1951 and not in 1950.
In its recent order, the Ministry has taken his date of birth as May 10, 1950, and not May 10, 1951, which the General has claimed as real as per his matriculation certificate.
An organisation The Grenadiers Association, Rohtak Chapter, had earlier filed an application in the apex court in support of Gen Singh. It is slated to come up on Friday.
In his own petition, the army chief has contended that he was treated by the government in a manner which reflects total lack of procedure and principles of natural justice in deciding his age.
In his 68-page petition, Gen Singh has challenged the government's "illegal and arbitrary" rejection of his Statutory Complaint to defence minister AK Antony on December 30 last for accepting May 10, 1951 as his date of birth.
He has termed it as violation of his fundamental rights.
Seeking the quashing of this order, the Army Chief has pleaded that the government be directed to treat May 10, 1951 as his date of birth and "grant all consequential reliefs thereto".
"The respondent (government) needs to explain as to why the senior most officer of the Army could be treated in a manner which reflects total lack of procedure and principles of natural justice and that too on an opinion obtained from the Attorney General," his petition said.
Gen Singh also wondered as to why the Ministry of Defence would doubt the records in the Adjutant General's branch, the official record-keeper of the Army, has not been explained. Nor has any authority while rejecting his plea for treating his date of birth as 10.5.1951 ever doubted the birth certificate of the petitioner.