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SC dismisses PIL on Army Chief's age row

Last updated on: January 20, 2012 13:34 IST

The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a public interest litigation seeking a direction to the government to restore the Army Chief Gen V K Singh's date of birth as May 10, 1951 saying it was not maintainable in law.

"In our view, the writ petition filed at the behest of an association is not maintainable. The writ petition is dismissed as not maintainable," a bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia said.

"This is purely a service matter," the court said.

The bench was furious that the PIL filed by The Grenadiers Association (Rohtak Chapter) annexed the opinions of former chief justices of India in the petition on the age row of army chief when they themselves said it is not for being putting up before the court.

He directed the apex court registry not to accept any writ petitions in cases where opinions of former chief justices are annexed.

Gen Singh himself has filed a petition before the Supreme Court seeking a direction to the government that his date of birth be treated as 10.5.1951 and not 1950.

The bench, also comprising justices A K Patnaik and Swatantra Kumar, said the affected person was not before it and entertaining a PIL based on newspaper headlines will set a "bad precedence" and lead to a "chaotic situation".

 The apex court said it would also not be appropriate for it to express any opinion on the case as the "aggrieved person" is already before it by way of a writ petition.

 At the outset, the bench wanted to know from senior advocate Bhim Singh, who was appearing for the association, as to how the PIL was maintainable and why opinion of the former CJIs were annexed in the petition.

"We are not concerned with the opinions of the former CJIs. It is most improper and it is most unfortunate. We will not consider the opinion of former CJIs," the bench said and pointed out to Singh that the former CJIs themselves have said that the opinions are not to be put in court.

"We are not here to fix the age of Army Chief. This is purely a service matter. Why you are putting opinion of former CJIs in the court? Why should the opinion be annexed in the petition? We are on the very limited issue," the bench said.

"You are only for the association. Is it not that the date of birth is a service matter," the bench said while referring to some of the apex court judgements.

 The bench did not agree with petitioner's contention that the whole nation was concerned with the age row of the Army Chief. It said the PIL under Article 32 at the behest of an association was not maintainable as the question of violation of fundamental rights has not arisen.

"Can such a prayer be granted in a PIL? We can understand if it was made by the person affected. We have to go by law. Person who is affected has to come to the court. We can't make departure from the law," the apex court said.

The bench also asked the petitioner to show from a judgement of the apex court that it has the authority to entertain a PIL at the behest of an association.

When Singh said that the PIL concerns the whole country, the bench said, "We will not go by the newspaper headlines as it does not make a good PIL". "We will go by law. Tell us, can date of birth be set by way of PIL?" the bench asked. "You just see the implication. Anything coming in newspaper headline can't be a PIL. That is not the law," it said.

The PIL, filed by The Grenadiers Association (Rohtak Chapter), was seeking a direction to the government to declare May 10, 1951 as the date of birth of Army Chief Gen V K Singh instead of May 10, 1950.

It had submitted that it was forced to approach the court as both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Defence Minister A K Antony had rejected Singh's plea for change of his date of birth. Earlier on December 16, the NGO's petition could not be heard by the bench of justices B S Chauhan and T S Thakur as the Justice Thakur had recused from hearing it.

The petitioner, an NGO headed by retired colonel B S Koshal, had claimed that the uncertainty over army chief's date of birth has affected his morale impinging on national security.

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