In rare move, govt extends tenure of Army Chief Gen Pande by one month

The extension to Gen Pande came nearly five decades after the then Indira Gandhi-led government extended the tenure of Army Chief Gen G G Bewoor by one year in early 1970s in first such instance.
alyan Ray
Last Updated : 26 May 2024, 12:18 IST
Last Updated : 26 May 2024, 12:18 IST

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New Delhi: In a highly unusual move, the Union government on Sunday extended the tenure of the Chief of the Army Staff Gen Manoj Pande by one month, leaving it for the next government to select the new Army chief.

“The Appointments Committee of Cabinet approved the extension in service of Chief of the Army Staff General Manoj C Pande for a period of one month, beyond his normal age of superannuation (May 31, 2024), i.e. up to June 30, 2024,” the Defence Ministry said in a brief statement.

The decision has been taken under Rule 16 A (4) of the Army Rules 1954 that deals with retaining of officers on the grounds of “exigencies of services.”

The decision created quite a buzz within the armed forces with many wondering whether it seals the fate of the Vice Chief of the Army Lt Gen Upendra Dwivedi and Southern Army commander Lt Gen A K Singh as both are to retire on June 30. Both Lt Gen Dwivedi and Lt Gen Singh are course-mates.

Gen Pande was appointed as the Army Chief on April 30, 2022. Commissioned in December 1982 in the Corps of Engineers (The Bombay Sappers), he held the appointment of Vice Chief of the Army Staff before taking over as the Chief of the Army Staff.

Lt Gen M V Suchindra Kumar, the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Northern Army is the third senior most officer in the 13 lakh strong Indian Army.

The decision to give such an unusual last-minute extension to an outgoing Army Chief took place last time 50 years ago when Gen G G Bewoor, who was to retire on April 11, 1974 was given a one-year extension, arguably to deny the top post to a popular officer.

Thanks to the decision by the Indira Gandhi government, a deserving officer like Lt Gen Prem Bhagat, had to retire from the service without reaching the top post.

Going by veterans’ accounts, the government was not in favour of appointing an upright officer like Lt Gen Bhagat, who many said was in the mould of Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw. Hence Gen Bewoor was given an extension.

Technically, the next government at the Centre can also include Lt Gen Dwivedi and Lt Gen Singh while deciding on the next chief of the Indian Army.

There are precedents like the case of former IAF vice chief N C Suri, who succeeded S K Mehra as the chief in 1991, though both were retiring on July 31 (Mehra controversially demitted office in the forenoon, allowing Suri to take over in the afternoon).

Five years ago, then IAF Vice-Chief RKS Bhaduaria was appointed as the IAF days before his retirement. Both Bhaduaria and then IAF chief Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa was to retire on the same day (Sept 30), but the former was selected as the next IAF chief to succeed the latter.

Sources said the Model Code of Conduct was not a barrier to name a new service chief as there are legal provisions to take the Election Commission’s permission before announcing such top appointments. Such provisions have been put to use in the past.

Published 26 May 2024, 12:18 IST

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