New Delhi: The Ministry of Defence finally broke its silence on Wednesday on the controversy over Army Chief’s date of birth, saying General VK Singh moving to court against the government sets a bad precedent.
Minister of State for Defence Pallam Raju said the development is neither good for the ministry nor the Army, and “sets an unhealthy precedent”.
Raju further described the matter as a sensitive issue and added it is not a matter for public debate.
After Gen Singh took the government to Supreme Court on Monday over the dispute on his date of birth, sources said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has taken charge of the matter.
The PM yesterday met Defence Minister AK Antony, Law Minister Salman Khurshid, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and several legal experts to discuss the matter. The government also filed a caveat in the Supreme Court yesterday, requesting to be heard before passing any order on the writ petition filed by Gen Singh challenging the Defence Ministry`s decision not to accept his position that he was born in 1951.
Gen Singh, citing birth records, says he was born in 1951 and is not due to retire until March 2013.
But records at the Defence Ministry show he was born in 1950, which means that Gen Singh, who became Army Chief in March 2010, is due to retire in May this year.
Notwithstanding Army Chief’s contention that he has moved court to protect his honour and integrity, the government believes the move highlights a trust deficit between the head of the Army and the government, said sources.
Sources further said the government has already begun sifting through a list of senior Army officers who could succeed Gen Singh.
There were also reports that Gen Singh may be asked to proceed on leave pending the apex court`s view on his petition. However, there was no confirmation of such a course from the Defence Ministry.
Further, a report said the Army Chief had written a letter to the Defence Minister minutes after he moved the court on Monday, explaining the reason behind the move.
Gen Singh is reported to have written in the letter that a pending public interest litigation, which would have proved “insidious”, forced him into the move.