The army chief, General Vijay Kumar Singh, is now on a full-blown confrontation course with the government. He has filed a petition with the Supreme Court, asking for his date of birth to be recognised as May 10, 1951. The ministry of defence (MoD), however, has determined he was born on May 10, 1950, a date General Singh rejects as having been erroneously entered in 1965 on his application form for joining the National Defence Academy.
That MoD’s determination would make the general liable to retire on the last day of May this year, the month he completes 62 years. But if the Supreme Court upholds his petition, General Singh would serve till March 31, 2013, when he completes three years as chief.
The date that is determined as General Singh’s birth date will determine who succeeds him as army chief. If the current chief retires this May, Lieutenant General Bikram Singh, the eastern army commander is likely to succeed him, by virtue of being the senior-most officer on that day.
If the appeal is upheld, the next army chief could be the current northern army commander, Lieutenant General K T Parnaik. Business Standard learns that General Singh’s legal team in the Supreme Court includes Chandigarh-based lawyer, Puneet Bali, who filed the petition in the court on Monday; and Uday U Lalit, the Central Bureau of Investigation’s special public prosecutor in the 2G telecom spectrum case.
A petition in the Supreme Court would ordinarily come up for hearing in the “mentioning list” in about one week. However, when a case has wide implications, or when a petitioner has requested for an early hearing, the court registry often lists the case early for hearing.
Asked by Business Standard whether General Singh would push for an early hearing, Puneet Bali confirmed, “We might make the request for an early hearing tomorrow, depending upon the instructions of the client.”
While the army chief’s personal staff officers declined comment when contacted by Business Standard, Bali said, “The army chief regards this an issue that concerns his personal honour and he feels very bitter at the aspersions that have been cast over his credibility.”
Crucial to the case could be the judge that hears the matter. According to the Supreme Court handbook, all matters that could be filed are divided into “47 subject categories” and each category is assigned to one or more judges.
Each fresh case is placed in one of these subject categories and comes up before the judge(s) responsible for that category of cases.
Also muddying the waters is another petition, which has weighed in on the army chief’s behalf. Filed by a little-known Rohtak-based ex-servicemen’s body, the “Grenadiers Association”, this is due for hearing in the apex court on January 20. It is learned that Gen Singh and defence minister A K Antony have both been named as respondents in this petition.