Army rejects defence ministry’s order on chief’s age

August 23rd, 2011 - 10:01 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 23 (IANS) Nearly a month after the defence ministry rejected Indian Army chief General V.K. Singh’s demand for correcting his birth year from 1950 to 1951, the Adjutant General’s branch has politely rejected the missive and sought a clarification from the ministry on its legality.

In an action that could be construed as defiance of the ministry’s orders, the Adjutant General’s branch has sought an explanation based on legal documents that the government can cite to justify its order that Gen. V.K. Singh was born on May 10, 1950 and not a year later on May 10, 1951.

“Yes, the Adjutant General’s branch has sought some clarifications from the ministry on its orders on maintaining the birth year of the army chief as 1950,” a senior defence ministry official said here Tuesday.

The Adjutant General’s branch is the custodian of personal records in the Army Headquarters. While its records of Singh cite 1951 as his year of birth, the matter became a bone of contention, as the Military Secretary’s branch, which is responsible for appointments and postings, shows his year of birth as 1950.

The move of the Adjutant General’s branch comes at a time when there is speculation that Gen. V.K. Singh will approach the courts against the defence ministry’s orders asking the army to maintain his year of birth as 1950.

If he does go to courts, it might be viewed as being confrontationist and embarrassing the government.

This instance of a service headquarters not implementing the defence ministry’s orders is only the second since independence in 1947.

The last time around, then Indian Navy chief Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat was sacked on December 30, 1998 for refused to implement orders on promotions given by then defence minister George Fernandes.

The army chief’s age had become controversial, as a change in the year could upset the line of succession of the 1.13-million strong army.

If 1951 is maintained as the year of birth, Gen. V.K. Singh, he would be entitled to serve another nine months than he is scheduled to retire on May 31, 2012.

If he retires in 2012, the present Eastern Army Commander, Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh, is likely to replace take over as the next army chief. If Gen. V.K. Singh’s tenure gets extended, then the present Northern Army commander, Lt. Gen. K.T. Parnaik, may get to head the army.

The Adjutant General’s branch sought a clarification of the defence ministry’s seven-page order of July 22, which essentially a rejected Gen. V.K. Singh’s plea of May 25 seeking that his year of birth be officially acknowledged as 1951.

Army sources said their response was prepared over the past three weeks after legal consultations within its own Judge Advocate General’s branch.

The army chief had earlier sought the opinion of five legal experts — the latest being former solicitor general Gopal Subramaniam — including four retired Supreme Court chief justices: G.B. Patnaik, V.N. Khare, R.C. Lahoti and J.S. Verma.

The Adjutant General’s branch has taken the position that the defence ministry order, signed by joint secretary Subhash Chandra, is not legally tenable.

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