The Supreme Court today directed the Centre to place before it the file pertaining to the appointment of Lt Gen Bikram Singh as the next Army Chief.
A bench of justices R M Lodha and H L Gokhale decided to go through the confidential document while hearing a PIL challenging the appointment of Bikram Singh and asked the government to place the file before it at 2pm.
The bench refused to hold an 'in-camera' proceeding in the case as pleaded by the petitioners, who alleged that it's a sensitive issue, which should not be discussed in the open court.
The bench turned down the petitioners' plea, saying all the allegations levelled in the petition have already become well-known through media reports.
The bench was hearing a PIL filed by retired officers and bureaucrats, including former Naval Chief Admiral Laxminarayan Ramdas and former Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswamy, challenging the appointment of Bikram Singh as the next Army Chief.
At the outset of the proceeding, when the petitioners referred to the age row of the current Army Chief, the bench made it clear that it would not go into that controversy again as it has been settled by the apex court earlier.
The Centre, represented by its top lawyers, including Attorney General G E Vahanvati and Solicitor General Rohinton F Nariman, vociferously opposed the PIL saying it has been filed with malafide intention and to rake up the age controversy again.
The government objected to the contentions made in the petition on the ground that it has tried to bring communal angle in the case by alleging that Sikh groups tried to lobby for Bikram Singh.
The apex court also wanted to know from the Centre if the allegations made against Bikram Singh in an alleged fake encounter case in Jammu and Kashmir and his questionable role during UN peacekeeping mission in Congo were placed before the Cabinet Committee on Appointments.
Bikram Singh, currently heading the Army's Eastern Command, is to succeed General V K Singh who demits office on May 31.
Challenging the appointment, the petitioners, had alleged in their PIL that Bikram Singh was involved in a fake encounter case in Jammu and Kashmir in 2001 and the case is pending in the high court there.
The petitioners, also including veteran journalist Sam Rajapa and social activist M G Devasahayam, alleged that Bikram Singh failed to take action against officers who were involved in sexual harassment and rape, when they were posted to Congo in 2008 as part of the UN peace-keeping mission.
The government had on March 3 announced the appointment of Lt Gen Bikram Singh as the next Army chief.