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EC to Consider Army Chief Appointment Issue

The Election Commission today said it will consider the issue of the appointment of the next army chief at a meeting of its top brass next week.

"We have received a reference from the Defence Ministry and the issue is under examination. But no decision has been taken so far. The matter has so far not been placed on the agenda of the 'full commission' (the Chief Election Commissioner and the two Election Commissioners)," a senior EC official told PTI here.

"The meeting could take place on Monday or Tuesday where the matter would be considered," the official said.

The poll panel will consider the matter in light of its March 27 order that appointments, promotions, tenders and procurements of defence forces are not covered under the Model Code of Conduct in the ongoing elections as well as any other election in the future. There have been complaints from the BJP that the government was rushing with the appointment of the next chief of army staff.

Amid strong opposition by the BJP to the appointment of the next army chief, the government had referred the matter to the Election Commission saying any decision will be taken only after getting its nod.

"The matter is before the Election Commission. We want to strictly follow all the procedures before taking any final decision on the issue," Defence Minister AK Antony said yesterday when asked about the status of appointing the next army chief.

The matter was sent to the EC by the Defence Ministry earlier this week though the poll panel has already said that appointments, promotions, tenders and procurements are not covered under the Model Code of Conduct in the ongoing elections as well as any other election in the future.

On why the ministry sent the matter to the Election Commission despite its March 27 order, highly-placed Defence Ministry sources said such matters were important and it was felt that the nod of all authorities concerned should be taken before proceeding.

The BJP has been opposing the appointment of the next army chief by the UPA Government, arguing there is no hurry to do so and the matter should be left to the next government.

Army Vice Chief Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag is the front-runner for appointment to the top post which falls vacant on July 31 after the retirement of present Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh.

The EC official also said the panel had not received any reference from the government on the ' snoopgate' commission of inquiry.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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