“We can understand if a person who has been harassed and not achieved anything is before us. You have achieved the highest position you aspire for. Why should a person of your stature come to court?” the Supreme Court on Friday asked Army Chief General VK Singh.
The bench of Justice RM Lodha and Justice HL Gokhale wondered why he was raising the issue of his age.
Singh had moved the SC seeking direction to the defence ministry to recognise May 10, 1951 as his date of birth in official service records and not May 10, 1950.
Throughout the three-hour long hearing, the court kept repeating that it didn’t doubt the General’s efforts to get the year of birth corrected in the records. But it felt since he had given up the challenge in an undertaking to the government, he could not have raised it again.
Justice Lodha, more vocal of the two, told counsel UU Lalit representing Singh that it was clear from the voluminous records that he had been asserting his year of birth as 1951. “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,” Justice Lodha said.
“It is extremely unfortunate. We understand the pain in your heart about your date of birth not being corrected. But ultimately you have left the decision in the hands of the authorities,” the court added.
But, what surprised the court was Singh’s move to approach the apex court against the ministry order despite giving an undertaking in January 2008 saying he had accepted government’s decision to consider 1950 as year of birth in “organisational interest”.
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 .... and we felt this court should decide it because any other forum would not have been an appropriate one.”
The court also lauded his 38 years of service to the nation, saying it was “proud” of having “meritorious” officer like Gen Singh.