The army repeatedly crossed swords with the government alleging that the defence and law ministries had adopted a tack to prevent army chief General VK Singh from changing his year of birth from 1950 to 1951.
A confidential document accessed by HT shows that the sparring between Singh and the two ministries reached a flashpoint in June, with both sides pointing fingers at each other for not being fair and transparent.
Defence minister AK Antony may have downplayed the rift last week but documents show that the army refused to accept the legal opinion given by the government's top law officer, AG GE Vahanvati, and shot off a point-by-point rebuttal.
On allegations by the army that tailor-made queries were sent to the law ministry to debar Singh from changing his year of birth, Vahanvati wrote, "I do not agree that the queries referred to me were tailor-made or there was any attempt to withhold any aspect of the case from me."
He further stated, “To suggest otherwise imputes motives to the defence ministry which is unwarranted and in bad taste.” It has now emerged that the defence ministry also found it odd that Singh accused it of being biased.
“It is little odd that General Singh has chosen to come to a conclusion that our reference to the AG lacked objectivity, was biased and designed to procure a particular opinion,” then defence secretary Pradeep Kumar said in a note sent to Antony in June, made public in response to an RTI query.
The AG’s rebuttal was preceded by the army's reliance on ex-CJI JS Verma’s opinion that the queries sent by the defence ministry to seek the law ministry's opinion to settle the age controversy "may not have been framed correctly."
Apart from Verma, the army had also roped in three former CJIs — VN Khare, RC Lahoti and GB Patnaik — to back its argument that Singh was born in 1951. But the AG stood by his opinion.