New Delhi: The Supreme Court has disposed the the Army chief's case against the government. Saying that it has "no scope to interfere", the court had given General VK Singh's counsel the option to "withdraw the petition till 2pm. The court's order is now being dictated.
General VK Singh wants the government to accept that he was born in 1951; the government says it has to abide by records that show he was born a year earlier. This impacts when he will have to retire, though the General says that's not what he's worried about.
Here's your 10-point guide to the story:
1) While asking the General Singh's counsel whether they wanted to withdraw the court said,"We want to ensure as a Chief of Army Staff you continue to serve the country as you did for 38 years. This verdict should not come in your way. Wise men are those who move with the wind."
2) Attorney General GE Vahnvati said in court today, "We (the government) have full faith on him. The fact that we are resisting his petition doesn't reflect on his ability to lead the army. We hope and pray this won't be the end of his service."
3) As both sides argued their case, the Supreme Court judges made these important observations: "No scope for us to interfere. We don't doubt your honesty." But they also said that crucial "threshold" documents list the General's date of birth as 1950, and "You accepted it. It is a matter of record. Then you became army chief." The judges also said that it was clear as far back as 2008 that two branches of the army -thee Adjutant General and the Military Secretary had different dates of birth for him. "The matter was discussed with you at the highest level and you accepted 1950," they observed. General Singh is not present in court today.
4) The Supreme Court said, "The most vital and relevant piece is the date of birth (DoB) recorded in the UPSC form. We are not concerned with you real or actual date of birth in the current case." General Singh's UPSC application form to join the National Defence Academy in Khadakvasla as a cadet states he was born on May 10, 1950. He has said the incorrect date was entered by mistake in that form.
5) During today's hearing, the Ministry of Defence withdrew its order that rejected General Singh's final petition to change his date of birth. That order was delivered by the Defense Ministry on December 30. However, the government told the Supreme Court today that it stands by its earlier decision taken in July last year to dismiss the chief's petition.
6) At the first hearing in the case on last Friday, the Supreme Court said that the government had used a "vitiated" or defective technique to rule against the chief. The court said it was not passing a judgement on the decision of the government; at this point, its concern is over the process used. The judges said that the government had incorrectly used the same legal expert's advice twice to rule against the chief. In July, the Ministry of Defence consulted Attorney General GE Vahanvati and rejected General Singh's first appeal. In December, Mr Vahanvati's opinion was used again to turn down the General's complaint against the government's earlier decision. The court said this defies the principles of natural justice.
7) Why is the General in court? Records in the army show his date of birth as 1950 and 1951. The chief says he has tried through his career to get all records amended to uniformly declare 1951 as his date of birth. He says some documents submitted by him when he joined the army erroneously listed 1950.
8) Why doesn't the government accept this? The Ministry of Defence says it is too late now to amend documents that are with its official record-keeper, the Adjutant General. The government also says that while accepting promotions, the chief agreed to accept 1950 as his year of birth. This established his seniority and furthered his career.
9) What does this mean for the army? The General, accused by some of embarrassing the army, says that he wants to protect his honour and integrity. He says his court case is not aimed at extending his term in office. Currently, he is scheduled to retire at the end of May. Rules state that he has to step down before he completes three years in office, or when he turns 62 -whichever comes first.
10) On Wednesday, the chief filed more documents supporting his claim with the Supreme Court, indicating that he too wants to pursue his case against the government.