Thursday, January 19, 2012

Wary of setback in SC, govt sends feelers to Gen VK Singh

Published: Thursday, Jan 19, 2012, 9:00 IST
Frantic parleys dominated the day on Wednesday with the UPA government sending feelers to army chief General VK Singh on his age issue Sources told DNA that Union law minister Salman Khurshid along with National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon met Gen Singh to find a solution to the rift between the government and the army chief.

The move comes after the government decided to take a hardline position on the issue following marathon meetings between prime minister Manmohan Singh and defence minister AK Antony on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, however, Khurshid pointed out that announcing the next army chief while Gen Singh’s petition was in the Supreme Court could prove to be a major problem from the government. According to him, an announcement at this stage could easily be construed as contempt of court.

This has put the government in a bind as it had decided to announce the next army chief during discussions that took place on Tuesday. Sources in South Block told DNA that Antony even sought all papers connected to the case as he was worried that the defence ministry bureaucracy could have “misled” him on the issue.

The government has also realised that Gen Singh has a good case in court since he has a birth certificate from Military hospital in Pune as well as a school leaving certificate that records his age as May 10, 1951.

In fact, sources said, the UPSC also raised the issue when Gen Singh joined the National Defence Academy nearly 40 years ago.

However, the documents submitted by Gen Singh as a cadet satisfied the commission and he was allowed to continue with 1951 as his birth year throughout his career. All his promotions were also conducted keeping 1951 as his birth year and even the identity card issued to him by the army headquarters at the time he was commissioned as an officer from the Indian Military Academy mentions 1951 as his year of birth.

The government has also realised that any order from the apex court will have large scale implications. If it wins the case, it could create a major issue since this could put the validity of a birth certificate and a school leaving certificate as age-proof in jeopardy. If the court rules in favour of Gen Singh, it could be an embarrassment even bigger than the 2G case with the international media picking up the story in a big way on Wednesday.

For the last two months, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee was acting as an interlocutor on behalf of the UPA government with Gen Singh. However, a petition filed by the army veterans, the Grenadiers Association, was coming up which could have vitiated Gen Singh’s options to go to court. The Grenadier’s petition was full of basic mistakes which are expected to be rejected by the apex court. To prevent such a prejudice building up, Gen Singh rushed through his petition on Monday morning.
Wary of setback in SC, govt sends feelers to Gen VK Singh

Comment: Is the Honest Defence Minister totally misguided by vested babus?

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