Antony faces trouble for statement on army chief's age - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Thursday 15 September 2011

Antony faces trouble for statement on army chief's age

A copy of the Military Secretary's Branch letter that confirms that all General VK Singh's senior promotions (from brigadier to major general to lieutenant general) were on the basis of a date of birth of 10th May 1951. The army chief has been told by the defence ministry that his official date of birth is 10th May 1950, and that he must retire in May 2012 on reaching the age of 62

Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 16th Sept 11

Defence Minister A K Antony faces a possible breach of privilege motion for misleading the Rajya Sabha in the increasingly bitter battle between the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the army chief, General V K Singh, over the latter’s date of birth, which will determine when he hangs up his uniform.

The controversy stems from the army’s four-decade error in maintaining two conflicting dates of birth for Gen Singh in two separate record-holding branches: May 10, 1950 and May 10, 1951. The MoD has ruled that the general was born in 1950; hence he will retire on May 31, 2012, after reaching the age of 62 that month. The army chief, asserting a point of honour, has officially petitioned Antony that his birth year be considered 1951 on the basis of multiple documents that he submitted four decades ago (including his matriculation and birth certificates). That would make Gen Singh eligible to serve till May 31, 2013.

Now Antony faces potential trouble in Parliament. Samajwadi Party MP Mohan Singh has demanded a clarification on Antony’s apparently false reply to a parliamentary question that the MP raised on the army chief’s date of birth. In his written reply to the Rajya Sabha on September 7, Antony declared, “The date of birth of General V K Singh, Chief of Army Staff, has been maintained as May 10,1950 at the time of his selection as Corps Commander in 2006, as well as his subsequent promotions as Army Commander in 2008 and Chief of the Army Staff in 2010.”

This, it is learnt, is untrue. The army’s Military Secretary’s Branch (MS Branch), which directly handles promotions, clearly informed the defence secretary in writing, on July 1 that all senior-level promotions of the army chief had been approved with his birth date reflected as May 10, 1951.

Business Standard has viewed MS Branch letter No A/4501/01/GEN/MS(X), signed by the Military Secretary, Lieutenant General G M Nair. This letter informs the defence secretary that Gen V K Singh’s promotion to brigadier in 1996; to major general in 2003; and to lieutenant general in 2005; all had May 10, 1951 as the date of birth.

The MS Branch is the department that has maintained all along that Gen Singh was born in 1950. The Adjutant General’s Branch (AG’s Branch), which is the ultimate authority for personnel records, has the army chief’s birth year as 1951 since he was commissioned as an officer in 1970.

“The MoD has hidden material facts in their reply. I have now asked for details… and I expect the defence minister to reply within 10-15 days. If the defence minister does not provide full details this time, I will be well within my rights to move a breach of privilege motion,” Mohan Singh asserted.

In response to a query from this newspaper, the MoD said, “We have received the MP’s letter and the honourable Raksha Mantri (defence minister) has asked the ministry to examine the issue raised by the honourable MP.”

It is learnt that a band of committed supporters, many of them dating back to the army chief’s childhood, have joined hands behind him. They appear driven by a powerful sense of grievance, Anna Hazare-style, centred on the belief that a crooked system is trying to prematurely rid itself of an inconveniently honest army chief.

This sense of victimisation is reinforced by what they see as a media campaign to malign the army chief. They cite as an example, a news report, ‘Lies of the General’ in the latest issue of India Today, in which Attorney General Goolam Vahanvati is quoted as saying police verification at the time Gen Singh joined the army showed his year of birth as 1950. To refute that, Business Standard was shown copies of the police verification (from DIG CID (IB), Rajasthan and DIG CID, Punjab; Haryana, the army chief’s home state, did not exist at that time) indicating his birth year as 1951.

At the heart of the dispute is the MoD’s contention that any amendment to a date of birth must take place within two years of an officer’s commissioning. Gen Singh argues in his petition that he is not asking for an amendment. His demand is that the MS Branch reconcile its flawed records with the correct record that has always been available with the army’s authentic authority, the AG’s Branch.


  1. What's the problem with the MoD? Why do they want to make this issue a major political battle. Seems senseless to me. No one is going to score any brownie points with this issue. However a show of grace by the MoD will work in its favor, which the DefMin is sorely missing.

  2. Col. Shukla,

    The article "Lies of the General" claims: "Ministry of Defence (MoD) documents accessed under the Right to Information Act (RTI), now with India Today, paint a damning picture of the army chief's attempts to rectify his birth date".
    If they did access the documents through RTI, how did they come to a different conclusion (personally I believe Broadsword-Col. Shukla as a better source for this kind of information than India Today).

    If that being the case then a defamation lawsuit needs to be filed against India Today for maligning the Army Chief. This is especially so since some of the comments in the article are untenable now that their whole story is based on falsehood (or half information).

    "General Singh took office on the promise of cleansing "the internal health of the Indian army and battling corruption. His legacy will be that of a chief who went to battle to have his date of birth changed."

  3. what i gather is that gen vk singh's almost crusade like emphasis on exposing corruptions, two of which - "Adarsh" and "Sukhna" made headline news, have rattled some status quoists who are getting desperate to get beck at gen vk singh & restore someone more pliant, ASAP.

  4. The next in line is Lt Gen Bikram Singh a relative of Man Mohan Singh.
    This is the reason. AG has had a very unsavoury innings at centre and involved in 2g and other dubious issues.
    This is the UPA style destroy Army which is one of the finest surviving institutions in the counntry

  5. The Chief is right. This is such a clear and shut case. Should never have even made it to the media. That it did, and the fact that it is lingering and souring, shows that vested interests, certainly babus in MOD and probably some senior officers in the Army, are stepping way out of line. The Chief should fight it out and make sure those vested interests are exposed and punished. Age badho!

  6. Absolutely wanton!

  7. Good
    Well done chief. keep fighting it may be symbolic but in case you win lot of lessons will learnt by the MOD and future chiefs will get more courage to fight for the cause of officers cadres which has been humiliated time again on various issue by the MOD.

  8. Bureaucrats feel no sense of reason when they feel their power is being questioned. To fuel their arrogance, they will lie even to their minister!

  9. so the so called... haloed general... is accepting... that he has presented and... willfully or not... misled... the Republic of India... for 4 decades!!!... how come a peson hav two date of birth... if you are an ordinary citizen of... The Republic of India... and in a private firm... how they will treat???... So the The Military... Especially the Army... which is know for... no double standards... should throw... the Perpetrators... who has created this in the first instance... obviously only the persons... in collusion will side with the Perpetrators... then we will think of previlege motion... As Army is know for thier... First Things First... Attitude... Believs...

  10. There is just no anomaly as far as the Army is concerned - RTI or otherwise

    1. The responsibility to reconcile the DOB soon after enrollment (from an authentic source, which would have been the school leaving certificate submitted by the Chief in 1967/68)lies with the UPSC/MOD

    2. The official record keeper of an Officers' particulars in the Army is the AG's Branch which is the ultimate authority in the Army for these matters. They have consistently maintained Chief's birth year as 1951.

    3. I the light of the foregoing India Today is grossly sensationalist to publish a one sided story labelled 'Lies of the General'

    4. The Army taken enough flak from an Government that had not / has not understood enough about those responsible to maintain the country's sovereignty - a more difficult task than the governance we receive.

  11. It is not only the question of the current chief and his crusade to clense the system, it also shall block another crusader, the Nothern Army Commander from making life difficult for officers on the take.

    Actually, a 'good'chief may not be able to change much, but the 'not so good' ones can do a lot of damage to its ethical fabric. The Army has already suffered three in a row!

    Of course the govt which maintains dossiers (IB) on all officers of the flag rank, is quite happy when they have a handle to keep a general officer in line.

  12. I think Gen V K singh clean record posing problem to Babus & dishonest Army officers who want something out of coming Weapons contracts.

    Let me highlight one more thing " Duaghter in law of Lt General Bikram Singh who will be become next Army chief if VK Singh retire next june is citizen of Pakistan.

  13. So he made a mistake,big deal... I had a boss who sometimes did the same when he went for meetings. Feel there is a powerful lobby out to get those that don't buy uncle's toys.

    The only two things that bug me about this defence minister are - 1]. Slow pace of modernisation of the armed forces and
    2].this moronic faith in bungling DPSUs to get the armed forces up to speed.

  14. Col Shukla,
    The issue is of general Bikram singh and the desire of UPA/CONgress to fund the 2014 elections. There are 3 possible reasons for Saint Antony and MMS to try and malign Gen V.K Singh.

    1. In case Gen V.K Singh retires in June 2012, the next in line is Bikram singh

    2. Once Gen Singh retires MOD/MMS wants a more pliable Army Chief who will not hesitate to withdraw from Siachin (pak Peace process) . MMS is under severe pressure from Americans to show some 'Generosity' to Pawkis. Gen V.K Singh has steadfastly refused to entertain any such thoughts.

    3. Then there is mother of all deals the Artillery modernization plan that has been waiting and Army has time and again recommended Bofors gun to be the best. CONgress will not touch it with a bargepole. the deal size is 40000Cr

    3. Bikram singh fits the bill for

    a. Pliable gen for Siachin

    b. For Arti modernisation

    c. He is a Sikh (MMS Pappi/Jhappi)

    Why Lt Gen Bikram Singh may agree to CONgress?

    1. He has a Paki Daughter in law . Which makes him ineligible to command army. Imagine an enemy citizen in house of Army chief

    2. He has been in dubious issues during Peace keeping trips in Africa

    3. He was negligent during the 'Chattisinghpura' massacre of innocent sikhs by kashmiri militants and report indicted him.

    MMS desperately wants Nobel peace prize and Bikram singh can keep quiet about Army withdrawing from Siachin and thus loose what was won by Indian blood and guts.

    warm regards

  15. This is a broad sword which cuts deep and wide into the MoD and an inept, corrupt Govt. MoD, please understand, if you do not have a chief who commands the utmost loyalty of a million strong army you don't need to fight a war ever to handover Arunachal and East Ladakh to China. Only offrs and men like VK Singh fight to the last man. These offrs and men are watching. You cannot dare to tell a soldier that he has been lying about his age all his life! You damned him wrongly and if you go further,the nation will hold you responsible for the consequences.

  16. How can a confidential document be made public? That too from as high an office as that of the MS himself ..... And since it can be seen its the office copy, a lot of people should be answering/explaining that.
    Has any CoI been ordered till now or not !??!?!
    --Maj SK

  17. How come there are two dates of birth in the first place? There is undoubtedly some hanky panky.
    The office copy of the classified document finds its way to Ajai?
    Where has all the Chetwoodien me last gone?


  19. All this about AG's branch being custodian of officer's details is partially incorrect. Each month units or formations send officers strength return to MS branch which shows, amongst other things, the appointment and date of birth of all officers held on strength of the unit. This is supposed to be officially authenticated by each officer. It may of interest Ajai Shukla ji to access some of these through RTI. For sake of a larger canvas you may like to see 3008s of units and formations VK Singh has served in throughout his life. And ur eyes will open. Everywhere the date is 1950......

  20. Dear Colonel,

    As the records suggest, there was never an issue about the age of the chief but someone seems to have made it a case for controversy to force another age on the general.

    The MoD and media is potraying Gen VK singh as a lier and Antony is doubting his integrity.

    Is that acceptable to COAS of India?

    Is that accepatble to the Armed Forces?

  21. All the corrupt have ganged up against COAS to deny him full tenure. AG has already been indicted by the Supreme Court for his dubious role in 2G scam. Many MoD officials as well as former chiefs have not liked the no nonsense approach of the honest Army Chief,on Sukhna and Adarsh, which has deprived them of their ill gotten wealth. I am sure once they retire the Army Chief, the next man will ensure that Adarsh remains where it is and Sukhna land might again go back to the builders.

  22. What kind of defence minister is he? UPA is in power for seven years could not sign any artillery deal?

  23. Shameful on part of MOD. Politicians aim is only to malign the Fauj which they have been looking with suspicion since days of Nehru. Anthony may be having an image of an honest person like MMS but does he have a spine is the question

  24. Every one in India is under the impression that the armed forces are to always behave like the epitome of virtues.This means saying "YES" to whatever the govt says.The problem is that even the armed forces think so. They feel they should set an example of being virtuous. Hence, they buckle down even when the fight is for right reasons.

    I do not know why there is some issue about the Chief going to court. Every IAS and IPS guy runs to court if he is sidelined. Take the example of Mr Thomas the EX-CVC. But when it comes to forces,it is incorrect as we are the paragons of virtue.

    The funny thing is that even some retired officers think that it is so.Time for a rethink guys......No one is bothered about ur examples....In the game of power,he who does not use his power is thrown away in the dustbin..

  25. It appears Mod is being vindictive.What is the true motive behind all this,only time will tell.

  26. Falsehoods and canards are being spread....that Bikram's d-in-law is a paki!!!She's not. She's a muslim from Dubai. Is that an offence???
    And VK Singh being honest doesn't by any way mean Gen Bikram isnt.....and arnt we parochial about his being a Sikh???? What about 20 Rajput MPs petitioning the Govt supporting VK's cause....Oh no...they were just doing it for the honour and integrity of the country -- was it????

    If honour is the only issue, why doesnt VK Singh announce that I am doing it for honour and the Govt may retire me in 2012 after accepting my 1951 additional 10 months as COAS are at stake bhai...that's what this hullaboo is all about..

    everyone knows how easy it is in India to gets a matriculation certificate with desired dates....and this was done on 1968/69 when it was even easier

    Govt doesnt take decisions on impulses...only after due deliberation..and to think they have not applied themselves in this case may be incorrect. Possibly they donot want to embarass the COAS

  27. OK.

    For those who are missing wood for trees.
    Gen VKS was commissioned in june 1970. so 1 year is IMA + 3 years for NDA. so that means - in Jun 1966 he should have been 16 years of age. so calculating it backwards - 1950 is the earliest Gen VKS could have got into NDA. Suppose if we take 1951 as DOB - then he was not even eligible to enter into NDA.

  28. How can a Confidential document signed by a Lt Gen be leaked so shamelessly to forward the agenda of getting another year for the Chief in office? Shameful - these generals today have no shame.

  29. How very very interesting.As usual the UPA is adept at digging its own grave.Seen it sooo many times!

  30. No Gentlemen, it is not the question of Vikram Vs VK.

    It is a question of how someone in MS Branch or MoD can even go to the extent of manipulating the date of birth to meet their selfish interests ?

    It is a question of someone somewhere in favourable position ensuring a line of succession for the the Armed Forces ?

    It is not a question of change pf date of birth for Gen VK Singh but the question of correct date of birth. The change in date of birth has been brought about by MoD !

    There is lot said about the rule that date of birth has to be chnaged within two years. How many officers can confirmrf if they were ever asked to verify their date of birth. When does a date of birth becomes relevant in the Armed Forces. When one has no chnaces to be a general.

    Will any one in the Armed Forces accept that MoD is the ultimate authority to change a citizens records with respect of his date of Birth, place of birth and even if one is a citizen of India at all or not ? Is not that voilative of the fundamental right?

    MoD has graduated from fixing pathetic pay scales for the Armed Forces, from denial of pension rights to now even fixing dates of birth !

    Is not that rediculious, illegal and unconstitutional.

    Govt (the President)has right to remove the Gen on any date and appoint any one as the next COAS( but not based on the date of birth fixed by them illegally and trecheriously) but they have no right to fix the date on which he was born without due process of law.

    What a low morality of the MoD and their Babus. Instead of improving they are going to lower nadirs day by day.

  31. anon@2251,
    1. It does not matter wether a guy is rajput or sikh or kumaoni or gorkha so long as he is doing his job right.

    2. Wht Gen BK Singh's DIL is doing is of no consequence to Indian Army.Navy Chief Ramdass's daughter married a paki and he became an advocate of "peace" between India and Pak after retirement and got a magssasay but still was very unpopular in the navy.

    3. As for honour and pride and all that,I believe there is honour in fighting for a right cause rather than retiring in 2012 and going home.

    4. To sign off,some join the armed forces for honour,pride and glory....others join for money................each joins for what he lacks.........

  32. Gentlemen/Anons, Fact is we don't have all the facts of the case to sit on it's judgment, what we are doing here is akin to media trials with incomplete facts. This shouldn't have been in public domain to begin with. If it's transparency that we are desirous of then we should go the entire distance and let both sides hold press conferences and present their case to the public with all supporting evidences, discretion/confidentiality be damned.

  33. It is a clear-cut case of highhandedness of MoD against the Defence Officers.

  34. 1. It is a very simple calculation .If the present COAS was born in 1951 then he was not eligible to join the NDA as he would have been under age . Hence ,we have to accept his year of birth as 1950 and the Chief should also accept this honourably .
    2. If one has to be clear of the exact date of birth then one should simply ask for the Part II order of the unit where his father (Col Jagat Singh) was serving at the time of the COAS's birth .And ,as also it could be verified from the records of the Military Hospital where he was born .
    Rather the COAS SHOULD PERSONALLY PRODUCE these records to prove to all that what his birth year is and absolve him of all the controversy .
    Col Gill

  35. If you have given two unconditional assurances not to rake up the issue and accepting the (later) DOB (as per you) in interest of the organisation, where is the honour in raising the issue after becoming Chief??????
    And pl pl pl dont say these were signed under duress. Bcoz it would be shameful to accept (1) that you could be put under duress at the ranks of Major & Lt Gen and (2) that you agreed to perpetuate a falsehood bcoz you wanted the rank at that time....honour would have been to refuse then and not turn a turncoat after accepting the rank.

    The options are open Chief...resign and fight the court battle to regain your honour. Or if you dont want to vacate the post even for a day...announce I will resign the day Govt does not accept my version!!!!! And actually do so That's the honourable way or the Gandhian way boss.

    And for the armchair `conspiracy theorists' including Pawan and Chandrabhan....only God can plan a succession plan that far....ghapla in defence purchases et all and return of Siachen to your imagination knows no bounds huh!!!Bikram must be a fool to nurture Chief ambitions after permitting his son to marry a Paki (actually a muslim from UAE)...but facts dont matter...he is a relation of MMS since he's a Sikh right...can someone specify the relation??? Someone has even linked him in Chattisinghpora case where there is no linkage!!! Incidently he was a Colonel then...must have planned 15 years ahead...If he has that kind of vision and planning...make him the Chief boss.....

  36. Thanks for bringing the facts out Ajay. There has been a systematic effort by the Congress and those who bear close allegience to it, to malign the Army Chief who is an upright and his own man.

  37. Apparently there's some issue in that as well, Col Gill.

    I agree entirely with your observation that the Part II order of his father's unit needs to be checked. Some news channel said once that he was not born in MH Kirkee, but in a private nursing home in Kirkee (now spelled Khadki, a suburb of Poona/Pune), and that the date of birth was 1949, nad then made to apologize, I was told.

    The whole thing is too fishy. Whatever may be the truth, there are far too many unpleasant issues at play - MoD trying to pressurize the Army, vested interests and teh Bhappa Sikh community wanting Bikram Singh to be the next Chief, Rajput MPs supporting the present Chief, right or wrong. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

    Gautam Das

  38. What is being played out in the name of the ‘age imbroglio’ is nothing but the unravelling of the most obnoxious plot in the theatre of the absurd. If in 1983, the selection to the highest office in the Army descended to “the level of small-town municipal election squabbles”, the current ‘age imbroglio’ has taken it to yet lower level(s) such as the ones which occur in Govt offices on a daily basis, across the length and breadth of the country wherein the Aam – Aadm is made to run around in circles for a sunwai . It is unbelievable that this is also happening in the case of India’s Chief of the Army Staff; the one selected to that exalted position on the basis of proven excellence - sustained under exacting scrutiny (undertaken every year) over nearly four decades - and in whom over a million soldiers repose their absolute trust as also the nation with assets worth billions of Rupees. Indicative of the strange times that we live in!


  39. It will be wise for the General to step down or vacate his office as scheduled in May 12. It is disheartening to note that such an high office of national interest, with legacy and glory attached to it, has been mired by this age row of present COAS.It could well have been avoided by the Gen itself by not forcing his way for consideration of changed date of birth (1951) at this juncture when he has enjoyed all the benefits of promotions and awards with his DOB as on 1950. He should, also, ponder over the fact the what would have been the his fate as well other senior officers had his DOB been corrected as 1951 (as the Gen is claiming now)well in time (say 25 years ago). It would, definitely, have allowed other senior officers to reach higher offices and reap other awards and benefits ahead of Gen VK Singh. I wish good sense will prevail upon all the concerned parties in bringing to the rest this sordid avoidable episode. It is not the question of Army Vs Bureaucracy or who is next in line. Future step will be taken by Govt at appropriate time by selecting worthy candidate who can take over the challenge of leading the mighty force.

  40. I have faced a situation wherein because of wrong records I was declared underage to join Navy way back. I have since lived with the wrong age for good or for worse.
    The questions are a plenty,
    1. If born in 1951 was the General underage to even join the NDA let alone be an officer.
    2. If his records had been corrected much earlier is it not possible that the line of succession would have been much different. So many Lt Generals retire during the tenure of an existing 'Chief' who would otherwise be the senior most after him, to take over.Would the General be the Chief at all if his DOB had been corrected earlier.
    3. What kind of Honor can he claim to be fighting for when to become chief he accepted the date as 1950, which he now claims under duress. A compromise under duress to become Chief and then rake up issue on technicalities is not 'Honor' Sir. It is opportunism. You waged your tail when it suited you ( agree under duress as you say ) and are now showing eyes when you have nothing to loose.That I am afraid certainly is not 'INTEGRITY'
    which the General would have been rated Outstanding all his life.

  41. The key question is if the General showed the DOB as 1950 to get admission to NDA as if it was 1951, he would have been underaged. Currently the min age is 16.5 years, if it was the same during that period one should dig into details- with 1951 DOB, he could have applied to NDA only in 1968 by current method- If this argument holds good, then one can say that he manipulated his way to army


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