An Army chief "has a right to retire with dignity", Gen VK Singh has pleaded before the Supreme Court while accepting the government's right to determine his tenure.
Challenging as "illegal and arbitrary" the rejection of his Statutory Complaint to defence minister AK Antony on December 30 last for accepting May 10, 1951 as his date of birth, Gen Singh has said that this was also violative of his fundamental rights.
Seeking the quashing of this order, the Army chief has pleaded in a 68-page petition that the government be directed to treat May 10, 1951 as his date of birth and "grant all consequential reliefs thereto".
Gen Singh's unprecedented action in dragging the government to the apex court followed the ministry's insistence that May 10, 1950 would be treated his official date of birth and that he would consequently retire on May 31 this year.
In his petition, he has stated that he wished to make it "abundantly clear at this stage" that regardless of the result of the petition or the controversy surrounding his age, the government "has the right to determine the tenure of his office of the chief of the Army Staff".
Gen Singh stated that the government's action and conduct in refusing to accept his contention on his birth date was affecting his image before the general public and the armed forces.
It was his right to have a "dignified life", he pleaded in the petition, adding that an army chief has "a right to retire with dignity".
Referring to the ministry's orders of December 30 and earlier rejecting his case, the Army chief has said that these orders have "conveniently ignored" his matriculation certificate, entire service record including entry into service, promotions and annual confidential reports.
He has stated that being a highly decorated officer, he had received all his awards, decorations and promotions as per the date of birth being 10.5.1951.
Gen Singh has enclosed voluminous documents and records with the petition in support of his stand that his year of birth was 1951.
However, he has said that in an application dated 29.7.1965 for admission to National Defence Academy (NDA) course he had, as a 14-year school boy, inadvertently filled his date of birth as 10.5.1950.
Gen Singh said Military Secretary's Branch (MS Branch), one of the departments of the army, somehow now claims that his date of birth is May 10, 1950 while the same department while processing his name for the gallantry awards reflected the year of birth as 1951.
He said the Adjutant General's Branch (AG Branch) being the official record keepers of the Indian Army maintains the year of birth as 1951.
The Army chief said he had only sought harmonisation of the records of the two departments and his request was erroneously construed as request for change of birth and was wrongly turned down by the two orders.
He said he has had impeccable service record and has been decorated for his exemplary and meritorious service. In a service where discipline and respect for seniors is one of the important feature, the controversy has been given undue publicity and coverage in the media.
Citing a judgement of the apex court in Kochunni verus State of Madras in 1959, Gen Singh said the court has categorically said that an application under Article 32 of the Constitution cannot be refused merely on the ground that such an application has been made to the Supreme Court in the first instance without resort to High Court or there is some adequate alternative remedy available to him.
It was further held in that judgement that the right to move the Supreme Court for the purpose of enforcing the fundamental rights itself is a fundamental right.