Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Will MoD see sense in the date of birth evidence?

Age row: Time for MoD to see sense
February 7, 2012 DC

The way the wrangle over the issue of the Army Chief’s age has gone, the critical observations of the Supreme Court on matters relating to the subject last week should not cause surprise.

To those who don’t take recourse to splitting hairs, the defence ministry’s public position on the chief’s age appeared unduly hard, and not mindful of the sensitivity of the question that may have an indirect bearing on civil-military relations.

What appeared particularly combative was the recent observation of defence minister A.K. Antony that the government had shown “patience” in the affair, suggesting Gen. V.K. Singh was out of line in approaching the Supreme Court for justice upon the rejection of his statutory complaint by the ministry on December 30 last year.

While the Supreme Court is yet to go into the merits of the case of Gen. Singh’s age — and it has made that quite clear — it had no hesitation upholding Gen. Singh’s right to move the nation’s highest court with his plea. Besides, the court held that the government’s order of December 30 was against the principle of natural justice and was ultra vires.

The latter suggests misuse of authority or poor judgment in the exercise of powers. What must sting is the court’s suggestion that the government “withdraw” its December 30 order so that Gen. Singh may have the option to go with his plea on age to the Armed Forces Tribunal or to the high court, even indicating that the latter may be the preferable course as the general is due to retire in four months’ time.

It is pertinent that the Supreme Court framed its observations in the context of deficiencies in the process of decision-making, which it said had “vitiated” the decision in this case — leading to the rejection of the Army Chief’s statutory complaint. This is clearly a rap on the knuckles.

The court said that the government’s July 21 order dismissing Gen. Singh’s contention on age flowed from the advice of the attorney-general, and the later rejection of the statutory complaint of Gen. Singh against that order also derived from the advice of the same law official.

The court has all but indicated that if the government does not withdraw the December 30 order, it may proceed to “quash” it. The hard time the government is getting is of its own making. Evidently, the A-G’s advice in one too many high-profile case has proved less than sound. The government would also do well to get off its high horse.

It shouldn’t in every instance of dealing with the military imagine that it is preserving the notion of the superiority of civilian authority over the armed forces.
Age row: Time for MoD to see sense
Comment: Why is the MoD so obsessed with the succession plot evolved by former Army Chief's, Gen's JJ Singh and Deepak Kapoor whose intentions obviously are mala fide. MoD needs to honestly give its reasons and not use the Date of Birth as a ploy to play around.

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