Navy chief: Officer moves tribunal for being overlooked

Navy chief: Officer moves tribunal for being overlooked

Vice Admiral Bimal Verma

Commander-in-Chief of the Andaman and Nicobar Command, Vice Admiral Bimal Verma has filed a petition in the Armed Forces Tribunal seeking to know from the Centre why he was overlooked as the next Navy Chief, despite being the senior-most officer in the Navy at the time of the incumbent Navy Chief's retirement.

Last month, the government named Vice Admiral Karambir Singh as next Chief of the Naval staff to succeed Admiral Sunil Lanba who retires on May 31.

The government didn't offer any explanation why the “seniority principle”, generally followed in top appointments, was ignored to decide on the next Navy Chief.

Vice Admiral Verma, sources said, approached the AFT in Delhi seeking to know why the government ignored his seniority. The petition may be taken up on Tuesday.

This is not the first time the NDA government ignored the seniority principle in higher defence appointments.

In 2016, Lt Gen Bipin Rawat was appointed as the next Army Chief superseding two seniors – Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi and Le Gen P M Hariz. Both accepted the government decisions and continued in their positions as Eastern and Southern Army Commanders till their retirement.

The NDA government's decision on Gen Rawat's appointment came under criticism from Congress and Left parties, who questioned the Centre for moving away from the age-old seniority principle.

Prior to the Gen Rawat incident, there was only one violation of the seniority principle when in 1983 then prime minister Indira Gandhi and his defence minister R Venkatraman didn't pick up Lt Gen S K Sinha as the next Army Chief.

They picked up Gen A S Vaidya, two months junior to Sinha, for the top job. In protest Sinha resigned.