In all the TV debates post Army Chief petitioning Supreme Court, arguments have been on letters and certificates, missing critical issues. A former Cabinet Secretary periodically criticizes the Army Chief’s action but admits he doesn’t know all facts. Well, if you don’t know facts then you have no business to pass judgments.
Why no focus on the completely illegal and Machiavellian genesis of the conspiracy hatched in 2006 by someone who considers Army his personal fiefdom; decides who should be Army Chief in 2012 and conspires to remove ‘all hurdles’ including reducing General V.K. Singh’s tenure as Army Chief by one full year notwithstanding this amounts to virtual sack.
The complicity of some bureaucrats and the naivety-cum-complicity of the polity is crystal clear:
- the Military Secretary in 2006 gives credence to a wrongly filled UPSC application, illegally changes Date of Birth (DOB) of Gen V.K. Singh even in the Army List which he cannot without AG’s Branch confirmation (AG - Adjutant General - being sole authority for age in Army) more than three decades after UPSC accepted the date of birth as 10 May 1951;
- General V.K. Singh’s repeated requests, including the last request to Army Chief in 2008 to ‘reconcile his DOB with AG are deliberately ignored;
- Army Chief in 2008, citing numerous promotion cases held up with Ministry of Defence (MoD), demands General V.K. Singh renders certificate that a decision in organizational interest will be acceptable, assures him of reconciliation of age within Army HQ within a month and subsequently reneges on his promise;
- when Military Secretary (MS) writes to (Ministry of Defence) MoD to fix DOB of General V.K. Singh as 10 May 1950, Bimal Julka, Joint Secretary [JS (G)] disagrees with the line of thinking and directs MS to carry out an inquiry on DOB issue in conjunction with AG;
- instead of carrying out the inquiry, “Inquiry Not To Be Held” is endorsed by the Chief / MS;
- for appointment as Army Chief, MS sends dossier of Gen V.K. Singh to MoD deliberately without his matriculation certificate and MoD instead of asking for the matriculation certificate sends the dossier to the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet;
- MS Branch waits for Bimal Julka to move out as JS(G) and sends the same case to MoD without carrying out any inquiry concurrent to a Parliament question on the issue;
- this time bureaucrats in MoD agree with MS, ignoring earlier directions of Bimal Julka, Supreme Court ruling that matriculation certificate is sole authority for DOB and inputs by AG that the DOB of General V.K. Singh has been 10 May 1951 consistently with them;
- Raksha Mantri (RM) is misled (RM reportedly unofficially admits now as reported by media) to make a statement in Parliament that General V.K. Singh’s DOB is 10 May 1950 – reneging from which would invite political backlash and hence decision to keep reinforcing the lie, hoping General V.K. Singh can be moulded to suit succession by the ‘chosen one’;
- General V.K. Singh’s petition to RM based on ‘reconciliation of age not undertaken by MS’ is deliberately twisted by MoD bureaucrats as petition for ‘change of DOB’ and rejected;
- Joint Secretary signing the rejection letter gives one reason findings of inquiry ordered by MoD that was never held; statutory complaint is similarly rejected to reinforce RM’s Parliament statement despite MoD having received AG Branch inputs as well as MS confirming all promotion boards and decorations of General V.K. Singh are based on his DOB of 10 May 1951;
- Law Minister states “Rules are Rules” – that General V.K. Singh should have applied for change of DOB within three years of commissioning but fails to mention how this rule is applicable when general V.K. Singh never once has asked for change of DOB;
- Attorney General says why Army Chief did not represent between 1971 and 2006 – an absolutely weird observation considering the conspiracy was hatched only in 2006;
- political interlocutors (Track II diplomacy – is he Chief of foreign military?) led by Finance Minister continue rain lullabies and lollipops – why so if government is sure they are right;
- government declares Gen V.K. Singh “outstanding” simultaneous to vitriolic unofficial slander to break him psychologically, stooping lowest in a magazine cover captioning army Chief as “Self Before Service” – unprecedented ignominy on a serving Army Chief anywhere in the world;
- the clique behind the conspiracy including mafia involvement is exposed through YouTube video every bit of which is explosive;
- RRM says the Army Chief petitioning Supreme Court is ‘unhealthy’ ignoring role played by bureaucrats under him and naiveté / involvement of the polity.
Has General V.K. Singh “dragged” government to court or has the latter “pushed” the General to court?
If we are in a dictatorship, then Gen V.K. Singh is very wrong in petitioning Supreme Court. However, if we are a democracy, his action is in best interest of democracy – standing up to wrong and dishonour while heading a 1.2 million Army, especially considering the manner in which the system is scarring the psyche of the soldiers.
Exposing ‘and punishing’ the conspirators and co-conspirators by the Supreme Court is now as important as giving a verdict on the DOB of General V.K. Singh. Generals Bikram Singh and KT Parnaik are both qualified to become Army Chief in their own turn but should we accept the Army as someone’s personal fiefdom in selecting an Army Chief six years in advance?
Role of the bureaucracy in this sordid affair must be acknowledged and corrective measures instituted though they will close ranks. Civil-Military relations apart, negative role of bureaucracy over the years stifling combat capabilities of the Security Sector is there for all to see, necessitating immediate corrective measures. Most importantly, the powers that be must understand that consequence of politicising and communalising the military will be horrendous for the country.
Lt Gen Prakash C. Katoch, PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, SC is a Special Forces veteran of the Indian army