New Delhi: In a temporary relief for Army Chief General VK Singh in the case over his date of birth, the government withdrew its December 30, 2011 order, rejecting his statutory complaint on his age row. The December 30, 2011 order rejected General Singh complaint against fixing his date of birth as May 10, 1950. Attorney General of India Goolam E Vahanvati informed the Supreme Court the government's decision to withdraw its order.
Following the withdrawal of the order General Singh gets another has another chance at filing a statutory appeal before the government.
But the Attorney General also informed the bench of Justice RM Lodha and Justice HL Gokhale that the government's July 21 and 22, 2011 order turning down General Singh's plea on his date of birth stands. Solicitor General Rohinton Nariman cited three letters of General Singh to point out that that the Army Chief has been unequivocally given his personal rights.
The court also questioned General Singh as to why he did not get his date of birth corrected with the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) which had recorded it as May 10, 1950.
"If they (UPSC) don't do what do you do," the bench asked senior advocate UU Lalit, who is appearing for General Singh.
The bench also observed that all documents at threshold when General Singh joined the NDA and the Indian Military Academy recorded his date of birth 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 noted.
The Supreme Court is hearing a petition from General Singh to maintain his date of birth as May 10, 1951, instead of May 10, 1950, and against the orders of the Defence Ministry rejection of his statutory complaint in this regard.
The government was pulled by the Supreme Court while admitting General Singh's petition on his age row on February 3 over the confusion in determining the Army Chief's correct date of birth. On February 3 the apex court had criticised the government's handling of the controversy while directing the Attorney General of India to take instructions from the government on the December 30, 2011 order which fixed General Singh's date of birth as May 10, 1950.
The court pointed out that there was no independent evaluation of General Singh's complaint. The apex court said that the December 30 order relied on Attorney General Vahanvati's opinion given to the government and hence was not correct.
General Singh had on February 8 filed more documents in the apex court in support of his plea, which had been based on his school leaving certificate.
The Army Chief had approached the apex court against the Defence Ministry's December 30 order rejecting his statutory complaint against the government fixing his year of birth as May 10, 1950, going by which he would have to retire May 31 2012.
The court, hearing the petition, observed that it found an 'administrative defect' in the government's decision-making process that fixed General Singh's age. It questioned how could the same legal officer be asked for advice twice over on the same issue, and asked the defence ministry to withdraw the December 30 order or it would be forced to quash it.
The discrepancy in the highly decorated soldier's year of birth stems from two sets of records - one with the Army Adjutant General Branch indicating it as May 10, 1951 and the Military Secretary Branch that showed it as May 10, 1950.
The basis of Military Secretary Branch records is the UPSC application form for the National Defence Academy filed by General Singh, which mentioned that he was born on May 10, 1950.
But General Singh has maintained that he submitted his school certificate to the UPSC on time for correction of his date of birth in official records even before he was commissioned into the Indian Army in 1970.
Interestingly, all other records such as passport, army identity cardindicate his year of birth as 1951, which is also the year that the Adjutant General, the Army's official record keeper, maintains in his service records.
The age row first cropped up in 2006 when General Singh was being considered for promotion as a corps commander.
The then Military Secretary sought a clarification from General Singh on his age, but was later persuaded, reportedly at the insistence of then Army Chief General JJ Singh, to accept 1950 as his birth year.