Court battle lost, will Army Chief step down?

A day after Army Chief General Vijay Kumar Singh “lost” the court battle on his date of birth, there are murmurs in the government circles that he will most likely step down.

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: A day after Army Chief General Vijay Kumar Singh “lost” the court battle on his date of birth, there are murmurs in the government circles that he will most likely step down.

Government sources say after the loss of face in the Supreme Court, it has become "untenable" for the Army Chief to continue in office.

General Singh is due to retire in May 31 this year.

If reports are to be believed, those in the close circle of the Army Chief say he is mulling stepping down post what happened in the court yesterday.

The Supreme Court had yesterday forced Gen Singh to withdraw his plea demanding that his birth date be treated as May 10, 1951 and not 1950 as the government maintains.

Judges RM Lodha and HL Gokhale made it clear that his date of birth would continue to be May 10, 1950 and not May 10, 1951 as mentioned in his school leaving certificate.

"The question before us is not about determination of the actual date of birth but it concerns recognition of a particular date of birth by the government in official service records," they ruled.

Gen Singh, who was in Jaipur on an official trip yesterday, did not react to the ruling. However, his senior counsel UU Lalit told the court that the General would retire on May 31 as scheduled.

Not to make it difficult for the General, Attorney General GE Vahanvati went out of his way to express the government`s trust in the man and asked him not to quit.

"We have full confidence and faith in his ability to lead the Army and we hope and pray that this will not be an end to his service to the nation," Vahanvati told the judges.

Lalit`s aide Puneet Bali said the age row had been "amicably and gracefully" resolved. He said Vahanvati`s statement was enough to satisfy them.

"The honour and integrity have been restored. It is not about tenure. We are absolutely satisfied. We do not want to agitate further... It is the end of the matter. It is a victory to both sides," he said.

However, many still see it as a loss of face for the Army Chief and believe he may call it quits sooner than later.

Govt hunts for next chief

Meanwhile, all eyes are now on who Gen Singh’s successor would be for which the Defence Ministry has already formed a panel.

The ministry panel includes the senior-most Lieutenant Generals for selecting the next Army Chief, sources said. The three senior-most officers are Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen Bikram Singh, Northern Army Commander Lt Gen KT Parnaik and present Vice Chief of Army Lt Gen Shri Krishna Singh.

Traditionally, the senior-most officer from the panel is appointed as the Army Chief.

In this case, Lt Gen Bikram Singh is the senior-most and most-likely to be appointed for the top post. Of the remaining two officers, Lt Gen Parnaik is senior to Lt Gen Shri Krishna.

Sources said in case Gen Singh decides to resign before the end of his tenure on May 31, the government is ready with its contingency plans.

They said in case Gen Singh resigns in the next few days, Western Army Commander Lt Gen Shankar Rajan Ghosh can also be considered for the appointment.

Lt Gen Ghosh is the seniormost officer after the Gen Singh in the Army.

(With agency inputs)

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