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Military court directs govt to produce records on selection of new Navy Chief

May 22, 2019 22:44 IST

A military tribunal on Wednesday directed the government to produce before it on May 29 all records and documents relating to selection of the new Navy Chief.

The direction by the Armed Forces Tribunal in New Delhi came in response to a petition filed by Vice Admiral Bimal Verma challenging the defence ministry's order appointing Vice Admiral Karambir Singh as the next Navy Chief, overlooking his seniority.

Vice Admiral Singh is scheduled to take charge as the new Navy chief from incumbent Admiral Sunil Lanba, who is set to demit office on May 31.

Vice Admiral Verma, commander-in-chief of the Andaman and Nicobar Command and senior-most naval commander, had moved the tribunal on the last month.

 

"The AFT has directed the government to place before it on May 29 all records and documents relating to selection of the new Navy Chief," Vice Admiral Verma's lawyer Ankur Chhibber said.

Last week, the Defence Ministry rejected Vice Admiral Verma's petition challenging the appointment of his junior, Vice Admiral Singh, as the next Navy Chief.

Vice Admiral Verma filed a fresh petition at the AFT on Tuesday challenging Singh's appointment as well as quashing of a note issued by the defence ministry rejecting his plea against the selection.

Chhibber said a previous petition filed with the AFT on the issue was withdrawn on Monday for filing the detailed plea on the issue.

In an order last week, the defence ministry said Vice Admiral Verma's statutory petition dated April 10 against appointment of Vice Admiral Singh to the top post is devoid of merit and has been rejected in exercise of powers under Section 23 of the Navy Act 1957.

The tribunal had on April 25 directed the defence ministry to decide Vice Admiral Verma's petition within three weeks.

Rejecting Vice Admiral Verma's plea, the defence ministry said a thorough selection process was conducted under which overall service profile of all the contenders for the top post was examined.

It said specific parameters for selection were applied uniformly to all the contenders and based on the assessment, it was found that Vice Admiral Verma, though being the senior most eligible officer, was unsuitable to hold the post of the Chief of the Naval Staff.

In his petition to the defence ministry, Vice Admiral Verma wondered why he was overlooked for the top post despite being the senior-most in the line of command, terming as 'wrongful' the government's decision to appoint Vice Admiral Singh to the post.

While appointing the Army chief in 2016, the government did not follow the long-held tradition of going by seniority. General Bipin Rawat was appointed Army chief superseding then Eastern Command Chief Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi and Southern Command Chief PM Hariz.

Besides Vice Admiral Verma, the other contenders for the Navy Chief post included Vice Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral G Ashok Kumar, FOC-in-C of Western Naval Command Vice Admiral Ajit Kumar and FOC-in-C of Southern Naval Command Vice Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla.

Singh, who is at present serving as the Flag Officer Commanding in Chief (FOC-in-C) of the Eastern Naval Command in Visakhapatnam, will be the first helicopter pilot to become chief of naval staff.

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