Army chief General Dalbir Singh on Thursday briefed defence minister Manohar Parrikar about an affidavit filed by him in the top court in which he has accused union minister and former army chief VK Singh of bias and malice.
While the defence ministry and the army were tight-lipped about what transpired at the meeting, it is understood that General Dalbir Singh Suhag explained the background of the case to the minister. The minister is examining the matter.
The army chief said in his affidavit VK Singh tried to deny him promotion to stall his appointment to the top position – it is rare for a serving chief to cast aspersions on the conduct of a previous chief. VK Singh could not be contacted for comments as he is in Saudi Arabia. He did tweet on Thursday evening saying “While people may comment on subjudice matters, I will continue to 2do what I am most passionate about, serve my country.”
In the affidavit to the Supreme Court, where a former colleague has challenged General Dalbir Singh’s elevation, the army chief said in 2012 the then army chief victimised him with malicious intent to punish him for “extraneous reasons”. VK Singh was the army chief at the time.
Dalbir Singh had taken the same plea in the armed forces tribunal (AFT) that had thrown out Lieutenant General (retd) Ravi Dastane’s challenge to his promotion.
Officials familiar with the case said that Dalbir Singh filed the affidavit in AFT in his “individual capacity” in 2012. They said neither was Dalbir Singh the army chief then nor was VK Singh a minister. The officials said as the SC was to begin the hearing of the case, Dalbir Singh re-submitted the affidavit, updating some developments.
The development was seen by many as an attempt to derail Dalbir Singh’s chances of not just taking over as Eastern Army commander but also as army chief in 2014.
However, VK Singh’s successor General Bikram Singh lifted the ban in June 2012 after nothing was found against Dalbir Singh. This paved the way for Dalbir Singh to be appointed as the head of Eastern Command.
Dastane challenged Dalbir Singh’s appointment, claiming he was eligible for the Eastern Command chief’s post but it was kept vacant for 15 days to accommodate the latter. It was at this stage Dalbir Singh filed the first affidavit in the AFT. Dastane moved the top court in 2014 after the AFT ruled against him.
“The passing of directions for initiating administrative action against me after about a month of having already finalised the court of inquiry smacks of motivated, biased, arbitrary and malicious intent to punish me which the then chief of army staff executed apparently as planned by him,” the affidavit says.
The controversy triggered by the affidavit took a political turn with the the Aam Aadmi Party dubbing VK Singh a “national liability” and demanding the minister be sacked.
“A person who intended to create a friction in the army, whose track record as the army chief was mired in controversies like his age row…who set up a parallel branch for snooping on ministers, one who compared Dalits with dogs while being a minister...There were reports that he also wanted to engineer a coup,” AAP leader Raghav Chadha said in Delhi.