New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday disposed off Army Chief General VK Singh’s petition which had sought to restore his date of birth as May 10, 1951 and not May 10, 1950 as accepted by the Defence Ministry.
The petition was disposed off after Gen Singh’s counsel, senior advocate UU Lalit, withdrew the petition, stating that his client didn’t want to prolong the matter any further.
The Army Chief was left with no option after the court asked him to either take back his petition or else it will rule on the matter.
The apex court had also made it clear that there was no scope for it to interfere in the matter.
The SC bench comprising justices RM Lodha and HL Gokhale had listed out the options while stating that Gen Singh’s date of birth recorded with the UPSC, which is May 10, 1950, was final.
The Army Chief was not present in the court during the hearing today.
Earlier, in its observations the apex court had said that recognition of Gen Singh`s date of birth as May 10, 1950 by Army does not suffer from perversity and is not grossly erroneous.
The SC further said 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.
No prejudice was done to Gen Singh and the government has full faith in him, the bench stated.
Attorney General GE Vahanvati also told the court that the government and `raksha mantri` has full faith and confidence in Gen Singh to lead the Army.
The court said Gen Singh`s writ petition was not for determination of date of birth but for recognition of date of birth in official records.
Looking into constraint of judicial review, the decision of government on his date of birth will
continue to be there, the court stated.
The SC told Gen Singh that having given his commitment and assurance of abiding by the government decision, he cannot resile.
We want to ensure that Gen Singh continues to work as Army Chief as he has been doing, the bench added.
‘UPSC record final’
The SC had sought to know from the counsel appearing for Gen Singh that as to why he didn’t get his date of birth corrected with the UPSC which had recorded it as May 10, 1950.
All documents at threshold when Gen Singh joined IMA, NDA recorded his date of birth as May 10, 1950, the bench observed.
"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 your date of birth is recorded as May 10, 1950," it noted.
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 the counsel.
While stating the court doesn’t doubt his honesty, the bench maintained that’s not material to the court.
Govt withdraws Dec 30 order
Earlier in the day, the government informed the Supreme Court that it was withdrawing its December 30, 2011 order rejecting Gen Singh’s statutory complaint for treating his date of birth as May 10, 1951 instead of May 10, 1950.
The Attorney General informed the Supreme Court about the government`s decision when the court resumed hearing on the age row this morning.
The development came a week after the SC pulled up the government during the last hearing, saying the December 30, 2011 order "appears to be vitiated". The court had told the government that the order would be quashed if it was not withdrawn.
The AG however told the SC that the government`s July 21 and 22 order turning down Gen Singh`s plea on age row stands.
During the hearing, Solicitor General Rohinton Nariman cited three letters of Gen Singh to say that he has been unequivocally given his personal rights.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said it would not be proper for him to comment on the matter as it is before the court.
While Gen Singh maintained that his date of birth is May 10, 1951, the Defence Ministry had insisted that it should be treated as May 10, 1950.
Gen Singh had earlier this week submitted before the Supreme Court additional documents to support his case for restoring his date of birth as May 10, 1951. The documents relate to the Army Rules on Commissioning of officers.
Gen Singh had moved the apex court in January this year accusing the government of treating him in a manner reflecting total lack of adherence to procedure and principles of natural justice in deciding his age.
The Army Chief took the unprecedented step of dragging the government to the apex court after the Defence Ministry had insisted upon treating May 10, 1950 as his official date of birth, necessitating his retirement on May 31 this year.
Challenging the government`s decision to determine May 10, 1950 as his date of birth, Gen Singh, in a 68-page petition, maintained that his acceptance of 1950 as the year of his birth was given in good faith at the behest of the then chief of Army Staff and not due to agreement with the conclusion of the Military Secretary`s Branch.