Army chief Gen VK Singh lost the date of birth battle in the Supreme Court on Friday, as the apex court said the government decision on the date — May 10, 1950, and not May 10, 1951 — was final, forcing him to withdraw his petition.
“You have achieved the highest position you aspired for. Why should a person of your stature come to court?” the court asked Singh, who will now retire on May 31 this year.
What surprised the court was Singh’s move to approach it despite giving an undertaking to the defence ministry in January 2008, accepting the government’s decision to consider 1950 as his year of birth in “organisational interest”.
Despite raising questions over why Singh was raising the issue now, a bench of Justice RM Lodha and Justice HL Gokhale applauded Singh’s 38 years of service, saying that it wanted to ensure that he continues to lead as the chief of 13-lakh-strong army.
Singh had for the first time written to the ministry in 2006 when he was empanelled for promotion to lieutenant general. His second undertaking came when he was to be appointed the eastern army commander in January 2008.
The court asked Singh why he had raked up the issue again soon after he assumed the office of the army chief.
Justice Lodha told senior counsel UU Lalit, representing Singh: “I have been able to read from this that if you continued to assert 1951 (as your year of birth) you would have been exposed to disciplinary action.”
Singh submitted that if the government accepted his date of birth as May 10, 1951, he would resign in 48 hours, but it did not cut much ice with the court, which said it was "not concerned with determining his age".
The court said, “We decided to hear this petition since we wanted to take a holistic approach to the issue. It’s a vital matter for the entire nation and we felt this court should decide it because any other forum would not have been an appropriate one.”
Singh could not be contacted for his comments, as he left for Jaipur after the court verdict was out. But his counsel Puneet Bali later told reporters that it was a victory for both sides, as the matter has been resolved "gracefully and amicably".