MoD not to budge on Gen Singh's age issue

Defence ministry ready to fight it out in SC

Even though it was rapped by the Supreme Court for “vitiating” the atmosphere in settling the age dispute of Army Chief Gen V K Singh, the defence ministry may not withdraw its December 30 rejection of Singh’s statutory complaint against the defence ministry’s July 21, 2011 order stipulating his year of birth as 1950.

Two days before the hearing in the apex court, sources said since the government is confident on the legal merit of its case, it would rather let the court quash the December 30 order instead of ministry withdrawing it.

The defence ministry is ready to fight the dispute in the court as it felt that the government could back its case with solid legal arguments.

Both defence minister A K Antony and the government’s chief troubleshooter Pranab Mukherjee who preceded Antony in the South Block are miffed with Singh who is the first serving military officer to take the government to the court.

It was during Mukherjee's tenure at the South Block, the discrepancy first came to light after three decades.

Singh accepted previous promotions as Corps Commander in 2006 and GOC of Eastern Command in 2008 on the basis of 1950 as his year of birth.

He accepted his promotion as the chief of army staff on the basis of 1950, but began petitioning the government to accept 1951 as his year of birth soon after being elevated to the top post.

If 1951 is accepted by the government, Singh would get 10 months extra time as the army chief and would disrupt the army's succession plans.

The army chief, on his part, is saying that he does not want a change in official records but merely a reconciliation of records between two branches in the army —adjutant general and military secretary —for the sake of his honour and integrity.

In his petition to the top court, Singh said the government is ready to fix the tenure of army chief, indicating that he might step down on May 31, 2012, as already decided in accordance with 1950 as his year of birth, even if records in the MS branch are changed.

The defence ministry, however, is not buying this argument and is ready for a legal battle.
Even though the ministry received Supreme Court’s flak for obtaining the opinion of G E Vahanvati twice in the age dispute, ministry sources pointed out that going by the rule books, they would always seek legal opinion from the AG as he is the country’s topmost law officer.

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