Defence Ministry examining row over army chief's age

Defence Ministry examining row over army chief's age

The Defence Ministry is examining the controversy over Army chief Gen V K Singh's age on which the government would take a final decision, Defence Minister A K Antony said today.

"Why set a deadline (for resolving the issue).. Before that we have to examine the whole thing and ultimately the Government will take a decision," he said when asked when the Defence Ministry would take a decision on the controversy.

Antony was talking to reporters after inaugurating the biennial Air Force Commanders’ Conference here. The Defence Ministry has already asked for all the documents related to the Army Chief’s age to examine them and the matter is likely to be placed before the Appointments Committee of Cabinet for a final decision.

The controversy around Army Chief’s age resurfaced after the Law Ministry opined that Singh's correct date of birth is May 10, 1951, and not May 10, 1950 which he had accepted after controversy about his age came up around 2008 when he was being considered for appointment as Eastern Army Commander.

The Army, for replying to RTI queries about the age of its top-level officers, had through the Defence Ministry sought Law Ministry's opinion if the date of birth mentioned in the matriculation certificate could be used for ascertaining the correct age.

"The Law Ministry answered in the affirmative saying the correct age of Army chief should be May 10, 1951 as the matriculation certificate is the valid document for date of birth proof," Defence Ministry sources had said.

The Army chief's date of birth varies in records of the Adjutant General's and Military Secretary's branches. The AG branch, the official record keeper for salary and pension, has May 10, 1951 as Singh's date of birth but the Military Secretary's (MS) branch, in charge of promotions and postings, records his date of birth as May 10, 1950.

Gen Singh is supposed to retire on June 1, 2012 but if this date of birth is accepted, he may get an extension of around one year in office. As per rules, an Army Chief can serve for three years or up to the age of 62, whichever is earlier.

The issue will also determine as to who will succeed Gen Singh in office as if he retires in June 2012, Lt Gen Bikram Singh will be the most-likely successor and if he gets an extension, Lt Gen K T Parnaik would be the likely successor.

Addressing the conference, Antony apprised the Air Force Commanders of the security situation in the South Asian region and appreciated the role of the armed forces in nation building.

Referring to the floods in Leh last year and evacuation of Indian citizens from Egypt and Libya, the Defence Minister applauded the IAF's role in humanitarian assistance, IAF officials said here.

In his address, IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik stressed on the need for consolidating the weapon systems in the force.

"IAF has declared 2011 as the 'Year of Consolidation', for weapons system and sensors. During the conference the commanders would deliberate upon matters of operations, acquisitions, aerospace safety, maintenance, administration and personnel matters," officials said.

The conference is being attended by the Vice Chief of Air Staff, chiefs of all the seven commands of the force and the Principal Staff Officers (PSO) at the Air Headquarters.

The chiefs of Army, Navy, National Security Adviser (NSA) and the chief of National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) would also interact with the IAF commanders during the conference.

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