Four former CJIs back Army Chief General VK Singh in age row

New Delhi: Army Chief General Vijay Kumar Singh has been wronged in the controversy over his date of birth, according to four former Chief Justices of India. In their opinion General Singh has been consistent on his date of birth since he joined the National Defence Academy (NDA).

While one former Chief Justice of India, Justice (retired) JS Verma was consulted by the Army over General VK Singh’s age row, the other three advised the Army Chief.

According to the former Chief Justices of India the Military Secretary Branch recorded General Singh’s date of birth wrongly as May 10,1950 and not as May 10, 1951. Opining that recording the wrong date of birth was the Military Secretary Branch’s fault, they said that its conduct does not inspire confidence.

Adjutant General Branch is the official record keeper in the Army and according to it General Singh’s date of birth is May 10, 1951.

Former Chief Justice of India RC Lahoti observed that General Singh has been consistent over May 10, 1951 as his date of birth since joining the NDA. Even the Adjutant General Branch has maintained May 10, 1951 as his date of birth from the very beginning and all confidential reports relating to General Singh since 1970 have the same date of birth.

Former Chief Justice of India Verma pointed out the the Military Secretary Branch entry on the officer’s date of birth was erroneous and it was never corrected. According to him the Military Secretary Branch has been raising a needless controversy based on its own failure.

Justice (retired) VN Khare, who was the Chief Justice of India from December 2002 to May 1, 2004, said that Defence Service Regulations specify that matriculation certificate alone will decide the date of birth. According to him any discrepancy must be reconciled with the date in the matriculation certificate.

He said that all branches of the Army must accept May 10, 1951 as General Singh’s date of birth and added that the Military Secretary Branch has no authority to direct the Adjutant General Branch to record May 10, 1950 as the date of birth.

However, former Chief Justice of India GB Pattanaik, who held the post from November 8, 2002 to December 18, 2002, said that the Centre can change the date of birth of an officer if service rules so allow.

But no such decision can be taken without informing the officer concerned and the officer’s reply in this context is important. He added that government records must reflect the matriculation certificate.

Senior lawyer Gopal Subramaniam also backed General Singh’s claim saying that his matriculation certificate gives May 10, 1951 as the date of birth that was accepted by the Union Public Service Commission, which conducts the NDA exam.

Subramaniam added that May 10, 1951 was the date of birth when he was commissioned in the Army and Military Secretary Branch’s insistence on maintaining May 10, 1950 as the Army Chief’s date of birth does not inspire confidence.

General Singh, a para-commando and veteran of 1971 Indo-Pak war, has been contending that May 10, 1951 should be treated as his actual date of birth as it was mentioned in his matriculation certificate but the Defence Ministry has rejected it as May 10, 1950 is the date entered in his UPSC form for the NDA.

If General Singh’s date of birth is taken as May 10, 1951 then he will retire in March 2013 and if May 10, 1950 is accepted then his tenure will come to an end in May 2012. The difference of one year will have an affect on who will succeed him as the next Army Chief.

If he retires on May 31, 2012 then Eastern Army Commander Lieutenant General Bikram Singh will take over as the next Army Chief, but if he demits office in March 2013 then Northern Army commander Lieutenant General KT Parnaik could take over from him as Lt Gen Bikram Singh will retire later in 2012.

But if General Singh is removed or resigns before May 31, 2012, then Western Command Chief Lieutenant General Shankar Ghosh, who is the senior most serving officer in the Army, will take on as the 27th Chief of the Indian Army.

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