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Age row: After SC backs govt army chief drops case

Last updated on: February 10, 2012 16:46 IST

Age row: After SC backs govt army chief drops case

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PTI

In a setback to Army Chief Gen V K Singh, the Supreme Court on Friday upheld the government decision on his age issue and said he cannot resile on his commitment accepting the date of birth as May 10, 1950, forcing him to withdraw his petition.

The apex 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 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 this year. But there are reports that he may quit soon. 

The apex 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 over two-hour long hearing in a packed courtroom.

Finally, Gen Singh withdrew his petition when the court hearing resumed at 2 pm after the lunch recess.

Earlier, at the start of the hearing, Attorney General G E Vahanvati informed the court that government has withdrawn its December 30,2011 order rejecting Gen Singh's statutory complaint on his age issue.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, Vahanvati made it clear that the government stands by its decision of July last year 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 Indian Military Academy and National Defence Academy contain the date of birth as May 10,1950.

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Image: Army Chief Gen V K Singh
Photographs: Reuters

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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 the 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 apex 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.

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.

He told the apex court that the government and 'raksha mantri' has 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."

 


Image: Attorney General G E Vahanvati
Photographs: Reuters

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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)?" The attorney general said that the December 30 order goes but July 21 and 22 stands. When the AG informed that the December 30 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 had given an option to the government to "withdraw" its December 30 order rejecting his statutory complaint, saying it was "vitiated".

 


Image: Supreme Court in New Delhi
Photographs: Reuters
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