Indian Army chief will retire in 2012, rules Antony

July 21st, 2011 - 9:19 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 21 (IANS) In a major setback for Indian Army chief General V.K. Singh, Defence Minister A.K. Antony has ruled that his year of birth will be fixed as 1950, as per the records with the military secretary’s branch, meaning he will retire on May 31, 2012.

Government sources said here Thursday that after prolonged consultations with the law ministry and the defence ministry’s legal advisers, Antony arrived at his decision and it will be communicated to the army headquarters to set their records straight.

Now, for all service matters, Singh’s date of birth will be May 10, 1950.

Singh had sought to correct his date of birth to May 10, 1951, as shown in his annual confidential reports and identity records. If this request had been accepted, it would have provided him an additional year of service and retirement only in May 2013.

This change in date of birth would have upset the seniority list of the army top brass and hence its line of succession.

Antony’s decision to stick to 1950 as V.K. Singh’s year of birth will now ensure the present Eastern Army Commander, Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh, will be the senior-most officer in line to succeed as the army chief in May 2012.

The issue, which had first raised its head in 2008 when V.K. Singh was to be appointed as the then Kolkata-based Eastern Army Commander, was revived after he took over as the chief of the 1.13 million strong Indian Army in March 2010.

At that time, he had given an undertaking that he would abide by the decision of his then boss, General Deepak Kapoor, on the age issue. In fact, whether his age was fixed as per 1950 or 1951, his seniority was unaffected to succeed Kapoor as the army chief, which he subsequently did.

Interestingly, Singh’s appointment as army chief, approved by the cabinet committee on appointments, was made on the basis of 1950 as his year of birth, which is also the record maintained by the military secretary’s branch at army headquarters.

However, the confusion regarding Singh’s correct age became a debating point after a set of Right to Information (RTI) applications were sent to the army and the defence ministry sought legal opinion to reply to the queries.

The law ministry and legal advisers opined that if the defence ministry agreed to change Singh’s year of birth to 1951, it would not be sustainable in a court of law, as there is no provision under the army’s service rules to do so at this stage of his career.

Even before this opinion could be expressed by the government’s legal eagles, there were efforts by some quarters to lobby for conceding Singh’s request for changing his year of birth and thereby his tenure as chief.

Not just former army generals, but even some former judges of the supreme court joined the bandwagon in favour of 1951 as Singh’s year of birth.

When some sections of the media got hold of birth certificates purported to be his, Singh went to the extent of filing criminal cases against a journalist in this regard.

However, all through this episode, the army chief remained silent on the issue, even at times refusing to talk, claiming it was an issue relating to an individual, when reporters queried him in this regard.

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