Battle Over Next Army Chief: Supreme Court Agrees to Listen to Challenger

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Battle Over Next Army Chief: Supreme Court Agrees to Listen to Challenger
New Delhi:  The Supreme Court has agreed to an early hearing for a case that challenges the appointment of Lieutenant General Dalbir Singh Suhag as the Indian army's new chief. (Lt General Suhag's Appointment as Army Chief is Final, Says Government)

Lieutenant General Ravi Dastane has told judges that the selection is mired in "favouritism".

The  top court said today that it will hear his petition early next month, weeks before Lieutenant General Suhag is scheduled to take over as Chief of Army Staff on August 1. (Controversy Over New Army Chief: 10 Developments)

Defence Minister Arun Jaitley told Parliament earlier this month that the appointment of Lieutenant General Suhag was final. His assertion came after the government was left embarrassed by one of its ministers - former army chief General VK Singh - tweeting against the Army Chief-designate. (Arun Jaitley Seeks Explanation on Affidavit from Defence Ministry Officials)

In his final weeks as army chief, General VK Singh took disciplinary action against Lieutenant General Suhag, blaming him for a botched intelligence operation in the north-east.  The action meant that Lieutenant General Suhag could not be promoted to Army Commander, a per-requisite for becoming Army Chief. (General VK Singh Delivers Huge Controversy for Government)

The action against Lieutenant General Suhag was cancelled by General Bikram Singh as soon as he took over from General VK Singh as army chief. Lieutenant General Suhag was then promoted as one of the army's six commanders, making him eligible to eventually serve as the army's top man. Lieutenant General Dastane contends this promotion took place at his expense, ensuring that he was removed from the line of contenders for chief of army staff.

Lieutenant General Dastane's petition was first heard by the Armed Forces Tribunal, which functions as a court that handles disputes over appointments, and concluded that the allegations against Lieutenant General Suhag, levelled by General VK Singh, were incorrect.

That same assessment was repeated by the government in the Supreme Court in a recent hearing, prompting the opposition Congress to demand the removal of General VK Singh as a minister.  The party said that the government's stand in court amounted to a "vote of no confidence" in its minister. (General VK Singh's Tweets a Disgrace, He Must Resign, says Congress)

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