New Delhi: In the first formal response to the controversy relating to its chief’s age, the Indian Army Sunday said the defense ministry’s ruling that General Vijay Kumar Singh’s year of birth should be 1950 was based on records of the Military Secretary’s branch, which had no jurisdictional authority on the matter.
An officer of the Additional Directorate General (Public Information) told IANS that despite the Adjutant General’s branch, which is the custodian of records, writing to the Military Secretary’ branch in earlier years, the latter had not corrected its records.
“In this case, the defense ministry has gone by what the Military Secretary branch at army headquarters has said.
“The custodian of records at army headquarters is the Adjutant General’s branch and the Military Secretary’s branch has no jurisdictional authority on this issue, as per regulations for the army and the charter given to each branch,” the officer said.
“The confusion has occurred because the AG’s branch has not been consulted,” he added.
The officer also said that the government had in January 2008 sought an inquiry in the date of birth records of General V.K. Singh, when he was being considered for promotion as army commander.
But that probe was never conducted by the army, which was under the predecessor of the present chief, “as it would have punctured the claims of the then Military Secretary”. General Deepak Kapoor was the army chief in January 2008.
“This confusion was further compounded because the Military Secretary’s branch did not correct its records from those maintained by the Adjutant General, despite his branch writing to the Military Secretary in earlier years,” the officer added.
General Singh had, in the middle of last year, sought a correction in the records with the Military Secretary’s branch from May 10, 1950 to May 10, 1951. The matter became a controversy as the change in date of birth would provide the army chief, who is slated to retire from service by June 2012, an additional 10 months in service.
This would have upset the succession plans, which is by tradition based on seniority, of the world’s second largest standing army.
If 1950 remains his year of birth, then the next in line for leading the 1.13-million-strong army is the present Eastern Army commander Lieutenant General Bikram Singh. If 1951 is agreed to, then the present Northern Army commander Lieutenant General K.T. Parnaik will be the next chief.
Also a set of queries under Right to Information Act on the age controversy were forwarded by the army headquarters to the defense ministry for a definitive answer on General Singh’s age.
After seeking legal opinion from the law ministry, the defense ministry last month ruled that the date of birth of General Singh for all official purposes will be May 10, 1950.
However, the army chief’s matriculation certificate, which is a valid legal document to fix date of birth, mentions 1951 as his year of birth.
“Acceptance and admission must be supported by valid documents, without which they have no value. The value of a matriculation certificate cannot be wished away,” the official said.