Army chief’s crosshairs on Attorney General - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Thursday 19 January 2012

Army chief’s crosshairs on Attorney General

Attorney General, Goolam Vahanvati, who has followed a long tradition of compliant AGs, by providing the MoD with a legal opinion that justifies turning down the army chief's petition for reconciling his birth date.

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 20th Jan 12

Squarely in the crosshairs of the army chief, General VK Singh, is Attorney General Goolam Vahanvati. Already under fire in the 2G spectrum allocation scam, which the CBI is investigating, Vahanvati provided Defence Minister AK Antony the legal opinion that led to the MoD’s rejection of General Singh’s petition for his birth date to be recognised as 10th May 1951.

The army chief's writ petition, filed in the Supreme Court on Monday, directly challenges Vahanvati’s opinion. The attorney general’s opinion overruled the earlier decision of a senior law ministry official, who had opined last May that the army chief was correct. Vahanvati, however, ruled that the MoD was on solid legal ground in putting the army chief’s date of birth as 10th May 1950.

Gen VK Singh’s writ petition cites the favourable opinions of four former Supreme Court chief justices and a former Solicitor General to directly suggest that Vahanvati's legal opinion is flawed.

“The attorney general has given his legal opinion, but we obviously do not accept that,” says Puneet Bali, advocate for the army chief. “We will contest it in court. Since the matter is sub-judice, I will not say any more.”

The army chief’s close advisors point out that attorneys general historically, and Vahanvati in particular, have been far from unbiased.

After the Bofors gun scam hit the headlines in 1987, then Attorney General, K Parasaran, provided a notoriously convenient “opinion” for the government, ruling that Bofors could not be asked to reveal the names of those who had been paid money because of “customer confidentiality”. This, although Bofors had declared that they were willing to provide the names; and the government had repeatedly said in public that it wanted the names from Bofors. Thereafter, on several occasions, the government ruled out obtaining those names from Bofors, citing the attorney general's opinion on “customer confidentiality.”

Former NDA disinvestment and telecom minister, Arun Shourie, asks, “Can you recall an opinion provided by an attorney general, which did not suit the convenience of the government of the time?”

Says Shourie, “Attorneys General should function as ‘in-house judges’ from whom government departments can obtain honest evaluations of legal cases. Unfortunately, they have functioned as lawyers for whichever government is in office, providing a legal rubber-stamp to decisions already made.”

Attorney General Vahanvati will be particularly vulnerable to such charges, say sources close to General VK Singh. The former Telecom Minister, A Raja, who is imprisoned and facing corruption charges in the 2G scam, used Vahanvati’s “legal opinion” to rationalize most of his allegedly illegal decisions. And Raja, while replying to a worried letter from the prime minister about spectrum allocation, wrote that he had been greatly “enlightened” in taking those decisions by “the learned Solicitor General”, as Vahanvati was at that time.

The CBI has not yet launched any specific investigation of Vahanvati’s role, and the attorney general himself strongly denies wrongdoing. However anti-graft campaigner, Prashant Bhushan, is pursuing a case in the Supreme Court, charging Vahanvati with drafting some of the most crucial arguments that Raja is now using in his defence.

If the Supreme Court decides to hear the army chief’s writ petition, and upholds his birth date as 10th May 1951, General VK Singh would be eligible to serve till 31st March 2013, when he completes three years in office. In that case, the current northern army commander, Lt Gen KT Parnaik, is likely to be the next army chief. Currently, General VK Singh is due to retire on 31st May 2012, after completing 62 years. In that case, the eastern army commander, Lt Gen Bikram Singh is likely to be the next army chief. This issue has arisen because the army has erroneously maintained two dates of birth for General Singh since 1970.


  1. So much corruption. A complete majority victory with huge margins for the BJP can only save the day for the nation. Such a party can rule out the need to keep criminals withing the party and kick out corrupt ones at will. We all Indians need to vote for BJP and send all their representatives except corrupt and criminal ones to parliament. And the place of any criminal or corrupt one like Yeddurappa contests, the independent be voted to power. That only can save the nation.

  2. You are arguing about the antecendents of an individual rather than the merits of the case. Just like the argument that Gen V K Singh's contention must be accepted because he is an honest, competent, upright man. Would you admit that the most corrupt of people can be right once in a while and the most upright can be wrong sometimes? The case is not about the honesty of individuals but about the facts on ground, which the Supreme Court, if it admits the Chief's petition, will decide on the basis of relevant evidence.
    This is exactly the kind of reporting that has muddied the waters and tried to sideline the main issue.

  3. @ anonymous :
    kindly post relevant comments to the topic at hand.
    i am sure u have heard of Yedu..rappa and another upcoming star entrant in UP.
    cancer has no medecine.

  4. Vahanvati instead of being the house counsel for the Govt. has turned into a house hatchet man for the Govt. His integrity itself is in question with his legal opinions on the 2G scam and the Army Chief age issues.

  5. The logic's and their contradictions and the motives behind them will be found out.

    I feel the attorney general shall be a bench of at least 3.

  6. The Govt, in this case MoD gaets what it seeks. The way AG has been acting in the case of Rank Pay pending before the SC is shameful. He has been telling the SC lies lies and nothing but lies on behalf of MoD. MoD happens to one of the largest litigant ministry wherein litigants given justice by lower courts is never implemented and always challenged.

  7. We do not need a chief who signs on dotted lines under duress just to get a promotion, and there after talks of upholding his honour and integrity. Incidentally can someone place on record that with dt of birth as 1951 was he eligible to join NDA then. Probably that may be the reason his school filled the date as 1950 for him to be eligible for NDA entry then.
    I can foresee the supreme court would not deliver the judgement till he retires....

  8. AG Vahanvati is doing exactly he has been told to do.Gen V K Singh has been very honest and punished corrupt top Lt.Gens of army in the last few years of his the corrupted and anti national mafia ,which includes the corrupted and greedy bureaucrats of MOD, UPA netas and punished Lt.Gens other officers..are together trying to remove him from the post ASAP.
    B-coz upcoming big buck purchases on the horizon...these mafia guys..surely want him to be out before any further progresses on these purchases are made...for their own share of commissions/perks/facilities..etc.
    Also US would like to see a weak President(women),PM and Army chief on their as to fulfill their strategies in this region.At this moment when majority of Indian Army officers and Jawans likes more Russia than US..and hence a powerful Indian Army and with it's powerful chief also not in the interest of US.Top of this the Indians public now in the openion that the time has arrived..when ARMY need to take power and remove all political leaders from the center due to the recent prise rise ,deeds of corrupted neta's and ministers also UPA's undue appeasement policies towards Muslims.

  9. Apropos the comment of SS who apparently has no guts to write his full name. Whether Gen VK DOB was written 50 or 51 he would have been still eligible for NDA.

  10. DofB is a issue of Fact which stands independent of what VK Singh wites, what Gen VK Sing undertakes to honor, Army List published, what MS mentions in the promotion boards, promotion orders etc.

    The fact of DofB stands totally independent of all that that happened/happens to him in the UPSC, NDA, IMA, Army, MofD or even the Courts, for that matter.

    The only authoritative document that corroborates the DofB is Birth certificate and in the absence of which Secondary school certificate.

    Why can't these morons in the Govt get this straight?

    The issues in the instant case are:

    1. What is the correct DofB of VK Singh?
    2. Is Govt authorised to ask the AGs Branch ( the official Record keeper of the Army for determination of eligibility of entry service and exit from the Army) to change the DofB to 1950 from 1951?

    Every thing else is peripheral and NOT substantial to the issue to be decided by the court.

  11. Merits of case would be decided on relevant rules and government orders.Regulations for the Army though not statutory may also be quoted. See link


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