Gen VK Singh (centre) with senior army brass at the recently concluded Exercise Sudarshan Shakti in Rajasthan. Who will succeed him as army chief is now an open question (photo courtesy Livefist blog)
by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 17th Jan 12
Army Chief, General Vijay Kumar Singh, is now on a full-blown confrontation course with the government. He has filed a writ petition with the Supreme Court, asking for his date of birth to be recognised as 10th May 1951. The MoD, however, has determined that he was born on 10th May 1950, a date that General Singh rejects as having been erroneously entered in 1965 on his application form for joining the National Defence Academy.
That MoD’s determination would make the general liable to retire on the last day of May this year, the month that he completes 62 years. But if the Supreme Court upholds his petition, General Singh would serve till 31st March 2013, when he completes three years as chief.
The date that is determined as General Singh’s birth date will determine who succeeds him as army chief. If the current chief retires this May, Lieutenant General Bikram Singh, the eastern army commander is likely to succeed him, by virtue of being the senior-most army officer on that day. If the Supreme Court appeal is upheld, the next army chief could be the current northern army commander, Lieutenant General KT Parnaik.
Business Standard learns that Gen VK Singh’s legal team in the Supreme Court includes Chandigarh-based lawyer, Puneet Bali, who filed the petition in the court today; and Uday U Lalit, the CBI’s Special Public Prosecutor in the 2G spectrum case.
A writ petition in the Supreme Court would ordinarily come up for hearing in the “mentioning list” in about one week. However, when a case has wide implications, or when a petitioner has requested for an early hearing, the court registry often lists the case early for hearing.
Asked by Business Standard whether General Singh would push for an early hearing, Puneet Bali confirmed, “We might make the request for an early hearing tomorrow, depending upon the instructions of the client.”
While the army chief’s personal staff officers declined comment when contacted by Business Standard, Puneet Bali said, “The army chief regards this an issue that concerns his personal honour and he feels very bitter at the aspersions that have been cast over his credibility.”
Crucial to the case could be the judge that hears the matter. According to the Supreme Court handbook, released by Chief Justice Balakrishna, all matters that could be filed before the court are divided into “47 subject categories” and each category is assigned to one or more judges. Each fresh case is placed in one of these subject categories and comes up before the judge(s) responsible for that category of cases.
Also muddying the waters is another petition, which has weighed in on the army chief’s behalf. Filed by a little-known Rohtak-based ex-servicemen’s body, the “Grenadiers Association”, this is due for hearing in the Supreme Court on 20th Jan. It is learned that Gen VK Singh and Defence Minister AK Antony have both been named as respondents in this petition.