Govt hunts for Army Chief’s successor
New Delhi: Amid a looming court battle over Army Chief General VK Singh’s age issue, the UPA government has reportedly begun looking for his successor.
Sources said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has decided to take charge of the matter, after Gen Singh took the government to Supreme Court on Monday over the dispute on his date of birth.
The PM yesterday also 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.
Meanwhile, Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharmam, who was on an official visit to Malaysia, was called back yesterday as the Defence Ministry readied for what could turn out to be a bitter legal battle.
Highly placed sources said the government is of the view that the Army Chief has taken the wrong step. 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.
It also sends a wrong signal internationally, believes the government.
According to sources, the government has begun sifting through a list of senior Army officers who could succeed Gen Singh. If the government announces his successor, Gen Singh may be forced to quit even before May 31 this year.
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.
The PIL, filed by an association of ex-servicemen, raises a lot of questions on several matters, including the succession issue.
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