Govt withdraws Dec 30 order on Army Chief age row

Govt withdraws Dec 30 order on Army Chief age row

Govt withdraws Dec 30 order on Army Chief age row
Pushed on the backfoot, government today told the Supreme Court that it has withdrawn its December 30 order rejecting Army Chief General V K Singh's statutory complaint for treating his date of birth as May 10, 1951 instead of May 10, 1950.

The government's decision to rescind the order came against the backdrop of the apex court stating that its December 30 order was vitiated and would be quashed if this was not done.

Attorney General G E Vahanvati, however, made it clear that government was sticking to its July 21 and July 22 orders of last year turning down Gen Singh's plea on the age row.

While Gen Singh has maintained that his date of birth is May 10, 1951, the defence ministry has insisted that it should be treated as May 10, 1950.

During the hearing, which went beyond an hour in the packed court room, the judges put some tough questions to the Army Chief asking why he did not get his date of birth corrected with the UPSC which had recorded it as May 10, 1950.

It said all documents "at threshold" when Gen Singh joined IMA, NDA recorded his date of birth as May 10, 1950.

"The documents at the threshold when you wanted to join IMA, NDA contains the date of birth as May 10, 1950.

"In all documents at the threshold you date of birth is recorded as May 10, 1950," it noted.

The court also said that the primary record for Gen Singh's date of birth was with UPSC which never corrected it.

"If they (UPSC) don't do what do you do," the bench of R M Lodha and H L Gokhale asked senior advocate U U Lalit who is appearing for Gen Singh.

As the hearing in the case began, the bench wanted to know from the Attorney General as to what is the instruction he has about the December 30 order.

Attorney General responded to the bench saying that the second part of the order is treated as withdrawn.

On that the bench said, "you are withdrawing the order (of December 30)."

The Attorney general said that "December 30 order goes but July 21 and 22 stands".

When AG informed that the December 30 order has been withdrawn, the bench said "what was troubling us will not stand before us".

Solicitor General Rohinton Nariman cited three letters of Gen Singh to say that he has been unequivocally given his personal rights. 

The court on February 3 had given an option to the government to "withdraw" its December 30 order rejecting his statutory complaint, saying it was "vitiated".

"Be clear whether you want to withdraw this December 30 order, or we quash the order," the court had said prompting Attorney General to say he would take instructions from the government.

The apex court felt that the December 30 was vitiated as the decision taken by the authority was in consultation with opinion of the Attorney General on whose opinion also the first order was passed on July 21 last year.

Gen Singh had sought change in his date of birth in May last year on which the Ministry of Defence had issued a memorandum on July 21 followed by an order on July 22 deciding that his date of birth would be treated as May 10, 1950.

The apex court had said there were other remedies available for Gen Singh if the government withdraws its December 30, 2011 order.

Gen Singh had moved the apex court in January this year accusing the government of treating him in a manner reflecting total lack of adherence to procedure and principles of natural justice in deciding his age.

The Army Chief took the unprecedented step of dragging the government to the apex court after the Defence Ministry had insisted upon treating May 10, 1950, as his official date of birth, necessitating his retirement on May 31 this year. 

Gen Singh has maintained that his acceptance of 1950 as the year of his birth was given in good faith at the behest of the then chief of Army Staff and not due to agreement with the conclusion of the Military Secretary's Branch.

Gen Singh stated that government's action and conduct in refusing to accept his contention on his birth date was affecting his image before the general public and the armed forces.

Referring to the ministry's orders of December 30 and earlier rejecting his case, the Army Chief has said that these orders have "conveniently ignored" his matriculation certificate, entire service record including entry into service, promotions and annual confidential reports.

He has stated that being a highly decorated officer, he had received all his awards, decorations and promotions as per the date of birth being 10.5.1951.