MoD rejects Army chief's statutory plea on age

Defence minister A K Antony on Friday rejected Army Chief V K Singh’s statutory plea to reconsider his year of birth in 1951, leaving little scope for the Army Chief except either to retire in May, 2012 or challenge the decision in a court.

After the third round of review by Attorney General G E Vahanvati who did not deviate from his earlier opinion, the defence minister stuck to his stand of accepting Singh’s date of birth as May 10, 1950 on the basis of which he was selected as Corps Commander in 2006 as well as his subsequent promotions as Army commander in 2008 and Chief of the Army Staff in 2010.

However, after becoming the Chief, Singh cited his secondary school certificate from the Madhyamik Siksha Board of Rajasthan showing his year of birth as 1951 and petitioned the minister to reconsider his year of birth.

If accepted it would have given him one more year at the top and affected Army’s succession plan.

Singh claimed that the discrepancy happened because Army’s two record-keeping sections – Adjutant General’s Branch in the Army HQ and the Military Secretary’s office have different dates of birth for Singh. The AG’s branch lists it as May 10, 1951 and the Military Secretary’s office as May 10, 1950.

After checking legal options, Antony in July turned down Singh’s appeal and decided to stick to the date on the basis of which previous promotions were given.

Not satisfied, Singh filed a Statutory Complaint to the minister, which has now been rejected. Though generally such complaints are responded with 90 days, Antony took more time to seek more opinion and deliver the verdict on the last working day of the year.

As the Statutory Complaint was the last in-house remedy available with Singh, the Army Chief may consider the option of challenging the defence ministry's verdict in a court of law, which could be the Armed Forces Tribunal or High Court. If that happens, it would be unprecedented in India's military history.

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