The Centre on Wednesday said army chief Gen VK Singh's unprecedented step of taking the government to the Supreme Court over his age row would set an “unhealthy precedent”.
Minister of state for defence MM Pallam Raju said, “It is not a matter for public debate. It is an unhealthy precedent that does not augur well either for the defence ministry or the armed forces.” The Centre is, however, proceeding cautiously in the matter, which could turn into a caste issue.
The controversy took a political turn with caste overtones in August when 20 Rajput MPs petitioned the prime minister in support of Singh’s claim that his date of birth be taken as May 10, 1951 and not May 10, 1950 as ordered by the defence ministry.
The PM asked the MPs not to politicise the matter and refused to accept their memorandum. One of the major reasons behind the government’s cautious approach is the upcoming assembly elections in five states. Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh, himself a former army officer, had gone public with his support for Gen Singh, though he later clarified that it was his personal opinion.
The government also does not want to take any step that could jeopardise the Congress’ chances in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, given the Rajput community's apparent support for the army chief.
Singh had on Monday filed a writ petition under article 32 of the Constitution, accusing the government of violating his fundamental right by not allowing him to change his year of birth from 1950 to 1951.
The controversy erupted when two different dates of birth for Singh were detected in the records of the Military Secretary's branch (1950) and the Adjutant General's branch (1951). The stage for a legal battle was set on December 30, 2011 when the defence ministry rejected Singh's statutory complaint to get his date of birth changed.