Army chief readies for legal battle with MoD - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Sunday 18 September 2011

Army chief readies for legal battle with MoD

Indian army chief, Gen VK Singh, taking over from his predecessor, Gen Deepak Kapoor. The controversy over Singh's birth date was further vexed by Kapoor, who put overt pressure on Singh to accept a birth date of 1950

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 19th Sept 11

The growing tension between the army and the defence ministry (MoD) over when the army chief, General VK Singh, will retire could be heading for a sensational climax. Business Standard has learned from sources close to the army chief that he will definitely go to court if defence minister AK Antony turns down his official petition requesting that his birth date be recognised as 10th May 1951.

Driving Gen Singh’s decision to escalate the face-off is his annoyance at the defence minister’s statement to parliament on Sept 7th, in which Antony said that the army chief was “left with 8 months and 23 days of service as on date.” Given that Antony is still considering Gen Singh’s petition, the army chief sees this unvarnished answer as an indication that Antony will reject his appeal and humiliate him in the process.

“The chief feels he has been pushed into a corner; he has no choice but to fight for his military reputation. And he knows that his legal case is watertight,” says a close personal associate of the army chief, who is assisting him in this matter.

Antony’s statement to parliament has already proven nettlesome with a Rajya Sabha MP, Mohan Singh, challenging the defence minister for allegedly falsely stating in parliament that Gen Singh was promoted on the basis of a date of birth of 10th May 1950. The MoD acknowledges this challenge and says it is examining the matter.

This controversy stems from the army’s inability to detect or reconcile, for 35 years, that two key branches in army headquarters maintained conflicting dates of birth for Gen VK Singh. The Military Secretary’s Branch (MS Branch), which deals with postings and promotions, has 10th May 1950. The Adjutant General’s Branch (AG’s Branch), which is the record-keeping authority, has 10th May 1951. The MoD has ruled that the general was born in 1950; hence he will retire on 31st May 2012 after reaching the age of 62 that month. But the army chief 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). If his plea is accepted Gen Singh would serve till 31st Mar 2013 when he completes three years as the chief.

In concluding that 1950 should be regarded as Gen Singh’s birth year, the MoD has argued that the army chief had himself accepted that date. Now Business Standard has accessed confidential documents that show that this acceptance was under pressure. The documents illustrate that Gen Singh was explicitly threatened by MS Branch to accept that he was born in 1950; and that the MoD had serious concerns over the MS Branch’s handling of this issue.

When Gen Singh was being evaluated for appointment as the commander of the eastern army in Kolkata, the MS Branch sent his documents to the MoD in 2007. On 14th Dec 07, the key MoD official dealing with promotions and postings of senior officers, Joint Secretary (G) Bimal Julka, wrote a secret letter --- number MoD ID No. 11(9)/2007-D(MS) --- to the Military Secretary, Lt Gen PR Gangadharan. Julka asked how the MS Branch had changed Gen VK Singh’s date of birth from 1951 to 1950. Echoing what Gen Singh says today, Julka demands to know, “It is seen… that the officer has all along indicated his date of birth as 10.5.1951. Hence, the basis for officer’s date of birth as 10.5.1950 may please be indicated.”

Julka’s question triggered a flurry of letters from the MS Branch to Gen Singh (then a lieutenant general commanding the prestigious 2 Corps), demanding an unequivocal written commitment that he was born in 1950. When Gen Singh demurred, the MS Branch issued a bald threat. In wireless signal number 388025/2008/MS(X) dated 24th Jan 08, MS Branch demanded an unconditional and immediate commitment to a 1950 birth year, adding, “If reply not recd (received) by 1000 hrs (hours) on 25 Jan 08 action deemed appropriate will be taken.”

Gen Singh believed that “action deemed appropriate” was an MS Branch threat to scuttle his candidature as eastern army commander. The same day he sent off his acceptance to MS Branch, but continued a testy correspondence, protesting this demand.

The MS Branch lost no time in triumphantly telling the MoD’s Julka that Singh had accepted 1950 as his birth year. But it was hardly possible for the MS Branch to hide its own faults. In letter number A/45751/Army Cdr/MS(X) dated 25 Jan 08, addressed to the MoD’s Bimal Julka, Lt Gen Gangadharan admitted that two birth dates existed “because of lack of coordination between the two branches (MS and AG’s) at that point in time…. The officer had also been mentioning 10 May 1951 in all his ACRs (Annual Confidential Records) but the MS Branch did not seek clarification/reconcile his date of birth.”

The MoD could see that Gen Singh’s acceptance of 1950 was half-hearted. In a confidential letter --- MoD ID No. 11(9)/2007-D(MS) dated 25 Jan 08 --- Bimal Julka wrote to the MS, “On perusal of the letter of Lt Gen VK Singh to MS dated 24 Jan 2008, it is evident that the doubts regarding his date of birth remain unanswered.” Julka demanded “a detailed enquiry into the matter to find out the correct date of birth of the officer immediately in consultation with AG’s Branch.”

The AG’s Branch responded on 30th Jan 08, stating that “the date of birth of IC-24173 Lt Gen VK Singh has always remained 10 May 1951. This has been corroborated in all of the documents on file of the officer in MP Directorate (which maintains officers’ records). Copies of the same have already been endorsed to MS Branch.”

But the enquiry demanded by the MoD was never completed, say sources close to Gen Singh. The army chief, Gen Deepak Kapoor, was not on good terms with Gen VK Singh, a relationship that practically broke down when Gen Singh, then in Kolkata, went after generals allegedly close to Gen Kapoor in the Sukhna land scam. And so the matter remains to be resolved to this day.


  1. And we think they are patriotic to their core.
    Gen Deepak Kapoor has seriously let down india military reputation in whatever he handled.
    Adarsh scam, sukhna scam & un-necessary boasting about 2 front war when every one knew that we are still preparing for it.

    Gen V K singh has impeccable reputation & he should go to court for justice. MoD is behaving like communist party. I am punjabi but Indian first so i seriously pray that Gen V K singh serve till 2013 so that we can have Lt Gen P T Parnaik as Army chief and not Lt Gen Bikram Singh whose record have too many blemishes.
    I hope expressed my views as objective as possible because i am personally feeling annoyed the matter is being handled by MoD

  2. Excellent...The army chief has full right to go to court and he should exercise it....I happened to see the programme in Headlines Today about the age issue. Shukla sir,great managed to shut up that insufferable know-it-all KC Singh who seems to have an opinion about anything...even my friends who are pucca civilians were convinced that the chief was right.

  3. Wow...and we blame politicians and what not..pakistan, china & US for our misery. Amazingly...this is the story of entire part does not talk to other part and this is a glaring example. Punish the guilty, exemplary punishment for first misrepresentation and later high handedness. If Chief of Army staff commanding 1.13 Million strong Indian Army can't be spared..imagine the plight of us mortals. It will be good for Chief to take it to courts not to embarrass St. Antony but to punish guilty in powerful syndicate of baboos and army. St. Antony is himself remote controlled...what could be bigger misery than this...thus request to leave this chap alone and help him attain his sainthood asap.

  4. Sordid and Murkey affairs of a man called Deepak Kapoor! Putting one of his Army Commander under duress, not for a national cause but for his personal agenda !

    Well, its is well established case of admittance under duress, well recognised under law.

    Now, it is for Sanit Antony to ehow his saintliness.

    I suggest, Gen VK Singh be appointed as CDS and then the line of sucession as desired by MoD would be clear.

    Oh! My Army. Is there any one to cry for you.

  5. So, The Army Chief was given a chance to clarify his DOB in Jan 2008. Knowing that he would not become the Eastern Army Commander if he said 1951 as his DOB, he cheated the system by stating that his DOB is 1950. So he lied to get a promotion! That's downright disgraceful!

  6. @ Ajay,
    It is indeed shocking that self-serving conduct of spineless and careerist generals like DK and his cohorts like LG PRG and his successor in MS has caused immense damage to cohesion of the Army. I think time has come for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to inquire into and correct the abberrations which have crept in during last decade or so.

  7. Case can't be water tight, as Gen Singh has accepted that his birth year is 1950. It doesn't matter whether it is under pressure or not. Court doesn't abosolve one's mistake even if it is done under pressure.

  8. If you can trust a man to command your army, why can't you accept his word on his date of birth and get on with focusing on more important national security considerations?

  9. GOI... is telling The General... your DOB is... so and so... and enjoyed all the perks accompanying as per GOI's version of DOB... now The General is saying... one can have a DOB later than... he was born... not before he was not born... but in my case... this dosen't hold... will the General say to GOI... that he can't fight... if a dragon attacks India???... since as per his records the dragon... is listed as friendly... you do what you want... i don't care???...

  10. Now that any future court case in this matter has been prejudiced by the parading in public of (what one assumes to be) the relevant evidence, good luck to Gen Singh.

  11. Whatever, the thing is that General VK Singh is a good general and doing some good things in army(at least that's what it seems like) in that case, GOI should be supporting him. People want to keep good managers , not fire them or ask them to go forcefully. That too when they know thr organization really need good professionals.

    There are many things which has to be ignored or done by going out of the way, because it can benefit the country or its people, Mr. Antony! What good is being good, if you can not benefit the country?

  12. Would you like to highlight the following:-

    1) The UPSC rules take Matriculation or equivalent certificates as authority for the date of birth. So what is the problem in his case?

    2) Promotion is based on professional competence, character qualities and past performance. Had his recorded date been 1951 would he have been found unfit for promotion? How absurd?

    3) Another interesting comment is that the change of date of birth will affect the succession line up. Who has decided the line up? And when was it decided? This shows the succession line up was decided when Gen VK Singh was still a Major General and the successor had possibly just taken over a Division. His Division commanders’ reports could not have been even written, leave alone evaluated at that stage. In other words the candidate was approved to be the next chief even before he had commanded a division successfully. The public should know one has to command a division, a Corps and an Army, all successfully, before being considered for the appointment of the next Chief.

    4) The Hon’ble RM says VK Singh’s last three promotions were based on date of birth being 1950. What about six promotions before that? Obviously they were based on his being 1951? Astonishing! And why was change necessary for the last three promotions?

    5) A press report says Gen VK Singh gave a certificate that the issue of date of birth would not be raised by him again. Why was the certificate taken? No such certificate is taken from officers at the time of any promotion. Why was it taken from Gen VK Singh?

    Why is the Defence Ministry trying to malign the General, through these motivated media reports? These political games are not good for the armed forces. The system must be clean and transparent.

    People are well aware of the inability of the Ministry of Home Affairs to handle the internal threats. The Army is the last pillar on which the Nation depends when situations go out of civilian control. Why is the Defence Ministry trying to destroy the fabric of this organisation?

  13. Reference some comments.

    It seems the succession after Gen VK Singh was planned before Gen Deepak Kapoor became the Chief.

    Raksha Mantralay must explain why it was planned so many years in advance. Normally it is from existing Army Commanders.

    Also why did they not decide the official date of birth for 40 years, despite all certificates showing his age as stated by the General. What is the doubt about the certificates?

    Political considerations for promotion will ruin the Army

    It is the Chief's duty to expose the Ministry's misdeeds

  14. case is not settled ?

    Shukla Sahab - the case was settled - but it is the lingering fire which is being agitated time and again - that is not settled. It would be much better for all concerned if this battle is fought in a court - because no one is ready to budge on their decision. It is a fact of nature - that a person can be born only once. Now it remains to be seen when he was born.

    One more thing you said in earlier post with Gen GMN's letter was that all the preomotion were with 1951 DOB - but in this post you said 2 corps to EC was 1950 - I don't understand these somersaults...

  15. How does it compromise his case for the evidence to be in the public domain? I don't see the logic behind that. It seems clear that he was born in 1951 and that has been the date always in his record. He accepted the date of 1950 once but under duress and not without protesting. Hence, this indeed seems like a watertight case in his favour.

  16. Shuklaji, I dont know if Mr. Unnithan of India Today is your buddy but the way he has structured his article in India Today, it appears more of a support to fellow villager Antony.

    It is nice to read the truth in your articles.

  17. Baldev
    When two or more than two query raised in any case then take decision which is more beneficial to the individual. This rule is in the DEFENCE SERVICE REGULATION. MS Br is only maint for holding the documents and AG Branch is making the document and recording all affected entries in the service document. DOB recorded in service document is correct and accepted.

  18. IS not Mr Antony ruining the good military-govt relationship that holds for 64 years since independence? sigh!

  19. The anomaly in the date of birth of Gen VK Singh, is playing havoc with the careers of many other aspiring officers. some may make it to the next appointment if his date of birth is fixed as 1950 and another set would make it if his date of birth is fixed in 1951. it is not just a case of Gen VK Singh's date of birth but a question of promotion of other set of officers. The delay in deciding this issue will create a divide amongst the senior officers in the army with some favouring Gen VK Singh's retirement in 2012 and others wishing he would retire in 2013. I was talking to a Divisional Commander and he said that his chances of becoming the Chief will become nil if Gen VK Singh retires in 2013. his entire course would get washed out. Such calculations are going on and the top brass of the army is getting divided. Anthony who has a very clean image needs to think rationally and take a legally correct decision at the earliest so that the matter is settled. Any delay is only harming the national interests. Gne VK Singh may be dispensable but the army is here to stay and it can not be played with.

  20. Thanx! Horoscopes are not being considered.

  21. all officers nowadays have skeletons in their cupboards. No one seems to be quite straight - as one would think. That is how they rise up in GoI - which itself is more and more resembling a 'criminal enterprise' in its entirety.

  22. The issue is that the babus in MOD are considered to be part of the govt while the army is seen as the outsider.The defence secretary has ruled that singh should be out and antonty has not option but to sign on dotted line.........the country is not ruled by politicians but by babus. netas can be thrown out of power.......babus only transferred....antony is just a pawn in the hands of def secretary..the babus are very smart and fire from netas' shoulders.....

  23. what is the real issue? if gen vk singh retires early, he is losing all perks and power for extra period, who follows him, that is crucial..if it is true tat gen bikram has a pakistani daughter in law, he must be a NO NO. so best is to give vk extension and let gen parnaik be next chief.

  24. a more detailed article

  25. There goes the regular masala. Grow up man.

  26. It seems Mr Pawan here has an axe to grind. He seems to actively support VK Singh and run down Baikram..wonder why?
    Saw his similar comments on the other article by Ajai on this issue..

    Is he a plant????

  27. If at least one chief stands up and fight for the right thing,it would be great............but alas....who will?


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