Army chief takes age row to minister
Indian Army chief General VK Singh has filed a statutory complaint stating that the government order on his date of birth was unjust and has requested defence minister to re-examine the issue. Shishir Gupta reports.delhi Updated: Aug 29, 2011 01:40 IST
In an unprecedented development, Indian Army chief General VK Singh has filed a statutory complaint under the Army Act stating that the government order on his date of birth was unjust and has requested defence minister AK Antony to re-examine the issue purely on merits.
On July 22, the government had rejected General Singh's contention that his date of birth was May 10, 1951 and ruled that it was actually May 10, 1950.
Defence ministry sources said Singh filed the statutory complaint with Antony on August 26 and according to the rules, it is mandatory that the grievance be addressed in 90 days. It is learnt that the complaint filed by the army chief runs into nearly 500 pages with detailed annexures containing documentation to substantiate his claim.
The army’s Adjutant General Branch, the custodian of personnel records, has already sought from the government the legal basis for the July 22, 2011 order in writing.
Official sources said Singh has appended his National Defence Academy form and a letter from the Union Public Service Commission that he needed to reconcile his date of birth as his certificates revealed 1951 as his year of birth and not 1950 as he had then stated in his original application.
Asking the defence minister to reconsider the decision, Singh has apparently said that preceding and succeeding correspondence must be looked into by the government after he allegedly accepted 1950 as his date of birth in writing to the ministry before taking over as army chief. The appended correspondence reveals that Army Headquarters, then headed by General Deepak Kapoor, had threatened action against Singh, who was the Eastern Army Commander at that time, if he did not accept his date of birth as May 10, 1950.
At the heart of this age controversy lies the fact that Singh will get one more year to serve as army chief if the government settles his year of birth as 1951. This will scuttle the chances of current Eastern Army Commander Lt General Bikram Singh to take over as the next army chief. However, VK Singh is apparently opposed to linking of the succession plan with his age. His argument is that the government should decide on the tenure of army chief’s appointment but not his date of birth as it would be tantamount to his being labelled a liar before his men.
Although both the government and VK Singh want to resolve the age issue quietly due to the sensitivities involved, the controversy may assume as different dimension in the coming days, with political parties wanting the Manmohan Singh government to resolve the problem quickly in the interest of national security.