A copy of the Military Secretary's Branch letter that confirms that all General VK Singh's senior promotions (from brigadier to major general to lieutenant general) were on the basis of a date of birth of 10th May 1951. The army chief has been told by the defence ministry that his official date of birth is 10th May 1950, and that he must retire in May 2012 on reaching the age of 62
Business Standard, 16th Sept 11
Defence Minister A K Antony faces a possible breach of privilege motion for misleading the Rajya Sabha in the increasingly bitter battle between the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the army chief, General V K Singh, over the latter’s date of birth, which will determine when he hangs up his uniform.
The controversy stems from the army’s four-decade error in maintaining two conflicting dates of birth for Gen Singh in two separate record-holding branches: May 10, 1950 and May 10, 1951. The MoD has ruled that the general was born in 1950; hence he will retire on May 31, 2012, after reaching the age of 62 that month. The army chief, asserting a point of honour, has officially petitioned Antony that his birth year be considered 1951 on the basis of multiple documents that he submitted four decades ago (including his matriculation and birth certificates). That would make Gen Singh eligible to serve till May 31, 2013.
Now Antony faces potential trouble in Parliament. Samajwadi Party MP Mohan Singh has demanded a clarification on Antony’s apparently false reply to a parliamentary question that the MP raised on the army chief’s date of birth. In his written reply to the Rajya Sabha on September 7, Antony declared, “The date of birth of General V K Singh, Chief of Army Staff, has been maintained as May 10,1950 at the time of his selection as Corps Commander in 2006, as well as his subsequent promotions as Army Commander in 2008 and Chief of the Army Staff in 2010.”
This, it is learnt, is untrue. The army’s Military Secretary’s Branch (MS Branch), which directly handles promotions, clearly informed the defence secretary in writing, on July 1 that all senior-level promotions of the army chief had been approved with his birth date reflected as May 10, 1951.
Business Standard has viewed MS Branch letter No A/4501/01/GEN/MS(X), signed by the Military Secretary, Lieutenant General G M Nair. This letter informs the defence secretary that Gen V K Singh’s promotion to brigadier in 1996; to major general in 2003; and to lieutenant general in 2005; all had May 10, 1951 as the date of birth.
The MS Branch is the department that has maintained all along that Gen Singh was born in 1950. The Adjutant General’s Branch (AG’s Branch), which is the ultimate authority for personnel records, has the army chief’s birth year as 1951 since he was commissioned as an officer in 1970.
“The MoD has hidden material facts in their reply. I have now asked for details… and I expect the defence minister to reply within 10-15 days. If the defence minister does not provide full details this time, I will be well within my rights to move a breach of privilege motion,” Mohan Singh asserted.
In response to a query from this newspaper, the MoD said, “We have received the MP’s letter and the honourable Raksha Mantri (defence minister) has asked the ministry to examine the issue raised by the honourable MP.”
It is learnt that a band of committed supporters, many of them dating back to the army chief’s childhood, have joined hands behind him. They appear driven by a powerful sense of grievance, Anna Hazare-style, centred on the belief that a crooked system is trying to prematurely rid itself of an inconveniently honest army chief.
This sense of victimisation is reinforced by what they see as a media campaign to malign the army chief. They cite as an example, a news report, ‘Lies of the General’ in the latest issue of India Today, in which Attorney General Goolam Vahanvati is quoted as saying police verification at the time Gen Singh joined the army showed his year of birth as 1950. To refute that, Business Standard was shown copies of the police verification (from DIG CID (IB), Rajasthan and DIG CID, Punjab; Haryana, the army chief’s home state, did not exist at that time) indicating his birth year as 1951.
At the heart of the dispute is the MoD’s contention that any amendment to a date of birth must take place within two years of an officer’s commissioning. Gen Singh argues in his petition that he is not asking for an amendment. His demand is that the MS Branch reconcile its flawed records with the correct record that has always been available with the army’s authentic authority, the AG’s Branch.