The Supreme Court on Friday said it would quash defence minister AK Antony's order — rejecting army chief General VK Singh's plea to accept 1951 as his year of birth — if the government did not withdraw it.
The court found minister's order on December 30, 2011 to be unconstitutional, as the “material on record will not withstand the test of the principle of natural justice…”
A bench of justice RM Lodha and justice HL Gokhale slammed the government for violating the principles of natural justice by following attorney general GE Vahanvati's advice twice to reject Singh's representation.
On the AG's request for time to consider this, the court gave the government a week to take a decision and fixed February 10 for further hearing.
Interestingly, moments before SC took up Singh's petition, advocate Ram Jethmalani claimed that he represented Singh and sought adjournment. But Singh's advocate Prabhjit Jauhar denied having briefed Jethmalani.
Jauhar also refuted Jethmalani’s statement that Singh had met him the previous night to engage him. Later, advocate UU Lalit, argued the case.On January 16, 2012, Singh, in an unprecedented move, challenged the ministry's orders, rejecting his representations to correct the year of birth recorded with the military secretary (MS).
Singh claimed his year of birth was 1951 as recorded with the adjutant general, and not 1950 as shown in MS records. But since ministry records reflect 1950 as his year of birth, Singh is set to retire in May.
Asking the government to take back its December order, the court rejected the government’s contention that it could reconsider Singh’s representation after he had withdrawn it.
The bench also found it unusual for the defence minister to seek the AG’s opinion twice on Singh’s statutory complaint. It said there was “no independent evaluation” of Singh’s complaint.
The pointed questions of the judges prompted Vahanvati to withdraw from the case. But the bench said, “There is no problem in your giving opinion. The problem here is that the order passed by the authority (the defence minister) in the name of the President is in consultation with your opinion.”