Navy officer petitions tribunal over next chief, daughter to fight his case
Rhea Verma father, Vice Admiral Verma, would have been the senior-most officer in the Navy on May 31 when Admiral Sunil Lanba retires. But the government last month decided against appointing him and opted for Vice Admiral Karambir Singh.Updated: Apr 09, 2019 01:14 IST
Vice Admiral Bimal Verma, the top navy officer superseded by the government to appoint his junior Vice Admiral Karambir Singh as the next navy chief, has petitioned the Armed Forces Tribunal against the order.
The senior navy officer, who heads the Andaman and Nicobar Command in Port Blair, will be represented by his daughter Rhea Verma, a Delhi-based lawyer. The 28-year-old is an alumnus of India Law Society’s Law College in Pune.
The tribunal is expected to hear the plea on Tuesday, people familiar with the matter said.
Senior navy officials declined comment on the matter.
Vice Admiral Bimal Verma would have been the senior-most officer in the navy on May 31 when navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba retires. But the government last month decided against appointing him and opted for Vice Admiral Karambir Singh, the second senior-most officer. Singh currently heads the Visakhapatnam-based Eastern Naval Command.
The people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified, said that in the petition, Verma has sought to know the criteria followed to make such top appointments and also demanded that Singh’s appointment be quashed. They added that Verma has raised questions about the decision-making process and also wants the tribunal to determine whether seniority should play a role in the appointment of the navy chief.
“While the government has set out its revised promotion policy where seniority has not been the key determining factor, an individual officer is well within his rights to seek legal recourse,” said military affairs expert and former army vice chief Lieutenant General AS Lamba (retd).
Lamba said this was perhaps the first time that a three-star officer had staked claim for the chief’s post. Bimal Verma was the principal director of naval operations when the 2005 Navy War Room leak case was reported.
While seniority is usually followed when a new service chief is named, there have been instances when the government has overlooked it. For instance, when General Bipin Rawat was named army chief in December 2016, the National Democratic Alliance government did supersede two lieutenant generals who were senior to Rawat. However, none of the two superseded generals approached the court.
Then-defence minister Manohar Parrikar famously defended the government’s choice, arguing that if seniority was the only criterion guiding the government in its choice, then the computer could have selected a service chief on the basis of date of birth and there was no need to follow a rigourous procedure spanning months, analyse Intelligence Bureau reports of candidates or seek the approval of the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet.
The previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government also did not go by the seniority principle in 2014 when Admiral Robin Dhowan superseded a senior officer, Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha, to become the navy chief. Sinha also did not seek legal remedy.
Bimal Verma’s brother Admiral Nirmal Verma (retd) was the navy chief during 2009-12. Had the former been elevated to the navy chief’s position, two brothers would have held the service chief’s position for the first time in independent India’s military history.
Vice Admiral Karambir Singh is a helicopter pilot who has previously served as the navy’s vice chief and deputy chief in a career spanning almost four decades. He will be the first helicopter pilot of the navy to head the service.
First Published: Apr 08, 2019 17:15 IST