Army Chief General V K Singh has told the Supreme Court that he was treated by the government in a manner which reflects total lack of procedure and principles of natural justice in deciding his age.
In his 68-page petition challenging the government's decision on determining his date of birth as 10.5.1950 and not 1951, he has maintained that his acceptance of his year of birth as 1950 was given in good faith at the behest of the then chief of army staff and not due to agreement with the conclusion of the military secretary's branch.
"The respondent (government) needs to explain as to why the senior-most officer of the army could be treated in a manner which reflects total lack of procedure and principles of natural justice and that too on an opinion obtained from the Attorney General," his petition said.
Gen Singh also wondered as to why the defence ministry would doubt the records in the adjutant general's branch, the official record keeper of the army, has not been explained. Nor has any authority while rejecting his plea for treating his date of birth as 10.5.1951 has ever doubted the birth certificate of the petitioner.
"One fails to understand as to why such importance is being given to an inadvertent mistake while filling up the UPSC form while ignoring the date of birth recorded in public record," he said.
Gen Singh will have to retire from service if his date of birth is finally determined as 10.5.1950.
Explaining the discussions he had had with the then army chief Gen Dipak Kapoor on why he accepted 10.5.1950 as the date of birth in 2008, he said he did so on being ordered by Gen Kapoor in his letters. "In the highest of traditions of the Indian Army, he had no option but to comply with the orders and command of his direct superior officer as also the assurances of his superior officer with the hope that he would bring the issue to a logical and ethical conclusion by accepting facts," the petition said.
He said the army chief in 2008 had personally assured him that the date of birth issue would be resolved by him. However, nothing had been done for almost three months and he addressed a letter on July 1, 2008 to the then chief of the army staff Gen Kapoor requesting for justice in his case.
Further, the petition said when it was brought to the notice of the then army chief that Gen Singh had met Lt Gen Khare and Lt Gen Gangadharan heading the MS Branch in 2006 and 2007 respectively, he was assured that "all necessary reconciliation with regard to the clarification on the date of birth would be carried out."
In the petition, Gen Singh said an army chief "has a right to retire with dignity" even while he accepted the government's right to determine his tenure. He called as "illegal and arbitrary" the rejection of his statutory complaint to Defence Minister A K Antony on December 30 last for accepting May 10, 1951 as his date of birth and said this was also a violation of his fundamental rights.
Seeking the quashing of this order, the army chief pleaded in the petition that the government be directed to treat May 10, 1951 as his date of birth and "grant all consequential relief thereto".
Gen Singh's unprecedented action in dragging the government to the apex court followed the ministry's insistence that May 10, 1950 would be treated his official date of birth and that he would consequently retire on May 31 this year. In his petition, he has stated that he wished to make it "abundantly clear at this stage" that regardless of the result of the petition or the controversy surrounding his age, the government "has the right to determine the tenure of his office of the chief of the army staff".
Gen Singh stated that the government's action and conduct in refusing to accept his contention on his birth date was affecting his image before the general public and the armed forces. It was his right to have a "dignified life", he pleaded in the petition, adding that an army chief has "a right to retire with dignity".
Referring to the ministry's orders of December 30 and earlier rejecting his case, the army chief has said that these orders have "conveniently ignored" his matriculation certificate, entire service record including entry into service, promotions and annual confidential reports. He has stated that being a highly decorated officer, he had received all his awards, decorations and promotions as per the date of birth being 10.5.1951.
Gen Singh has enclosed voluminous documents and records with the petition in support of his stand that his year of birth was 1951. However, he has said that in an application dated 29.7.1965 for admission to National Defence Academy course he had, as a 14-year-old schoolboy, inadvertently filled his date of birth as 10.5.1950.