Supreme Court upholds govt. decision on Army Chief’s age
The Supreme Court said it was not in favour of entertaining Gen. Singh’s petition that his date of birth should be treated in official records as May 10,1951 and gave him the option of withdrawing it.
The court held that no prejudice was done to Gen. Singh and the government decision on his date of birth will continue to be there. In view of this, Gen. Singh will have to retire on May 31, 2012
The Supreme Court noted that the government has full faith in him and that the court wanted to ensure that he continues to work as the Army Chief as he has been doing.
Gen. Singh has to abide by his commitment and honour his letters of 2008 and 2009 accepting the date of birth as May 10, 1950, the court said during hearing for over two hours in a packed court room.
Finally, Gen. Singh withdrew his petition when the court hearing resumed at 2 p.m. after the lunch recess.
Govt. withdraws December 30, 2011 order
Earlier, at the start of the hearing, Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati informed the court that government has withdrawn its December 30, 2011 order rejecting Gen. Singh’s statutory complaint on his age issue.
At the same time, Mr. Vahanvati made it clear that the government stands by its decision of July 2011 to treat his date of birth as May 10,1950.
Posing tough questions to Gen. Singh as to why he did not get the records corrected, a bench headed by Justice R.M. Lodha said the recognition of his date of birth as May 10, 1950 by the Army does not suffer from perversity and was not grossly erroneous.
It said that all documents at threshold when Gen. Singh joined the Indian Military Academy and National Defence Academy contain the date of birth as May 10,1950.
The Supreme Court bench, also comprising Justice H.L. Gokhale, said Gen. Singh has to abide by his commitment and honour his letters of 2008 and 2009 in which he had accepted his date of birth as May 10, 1950.
The court told Gen. Singh that having given his commitment and assurance of abiding by the government decision, he cannot resile.
It said that recognition of Gen. Singh’s date of birth as May 10, 1950 by Army does not suffer from perversity and is not grossly erroneous.
The government has full faith in him being the Army Chief and no prejudice was done to him, the court said, while observing that being the Army Chief, Gen. Singh has reached the highest position which any officer aspires.
The Supreme Court observed that Gen. Singh’s writ petition was not for determination of date of birth but for recognition of date of birth in the official records.
The Army Chief faced further disappointment with the court refusing his plea that the government order on his date of birth as May 10, 1950 be restricted only to service record.
After Gen. Singh withdrew his petition, the court declared it as disposed off as withdrawn.
Mr. Vahanvati earlier made it clear that government was sticking to its July 21 and July 22, 2011 order turning down Gen. Singh’s contention that he was born in 1951.
‘Have full faith in Gen. Singh’
He told the Supreme Court that the government and the Defence Minister have full faith and confidence in Gen. Singh to lead the Army.
Emerging from the court, the Army Chief’s counsel Puneet Bali said it was victory of both sides as the matter has been resolved amicably.
“Our petition was not for extension of service (of Gen. Singh) but a matter of honour and integrity of the General,” he told reporters, adding “we are satisfied that his honour and integrity has been restored”.
The bench put some searching questions to the Army Chief asking why he did not get his date of birth corrected with the UPSC which had recorded it as May 10, 1950.
“The documents at the threshold when you wanted to join IMA, NDA contains the date of birth as May 10, 1950… In all documents at the threshold you date of birth is recorded as May 10, 1950,” the bench said.
The court also said that the primary record for Gen. Singh’s date of birth was with UPSC which never corrected it.
“If they (UPSC) don’t do what do you do,” the bench asked senior advocate U U Lalit who is appearing for Gen. Singh.
As the hearing began, the bench wanted to know from the Attorney-General as to what instructions he has about the December 30 order.
The Attorney General responded saying that the second part of the order is treated as withdrawn.
On that the bench said, “You are withdrawing the order (of December 30, 2011)?” The Attorney general said that “December 30 order goes but July 21 and 22 stands“.
When AG informed that the December 30, 2011 order has been withdrawn, the bench said “what was troubling us will not stand before us“.
Solicitor-General Rohinton Nariman cited three letters of Gen. Singh to say that he has been unequivocally given his personal rights.
The court on February 3, 2012 had given an option to the government to “withdraw” its December 30, 2011 order rejecting his statutory complaint, saying it was “vitiated”.
Manmohan refuses to comment
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh refusedme to comnt on the controversy over the age of Gen. Singh.
“This is a matter that is before court and I would not like to comment on it,” Dr. Manmohan Singh told reporters at the India-EU summit in New Delhi.
He was asked why the government had decided to withdraw the December 30, 2011 order rejecting a complaint from the Army Chief for treating his date of birth as May 10, 1951 instead of May 10, 1950.