Friday, Dec 09, 2022

The General Deserves Justice

The General Deserves Justice

Never mind the orchestrated media blitz, don't be swayed by the wind: just read the Supreme Court order. The date of birth issue is far from being closed. The ball is in the government's court.

After the disposal of the writ petition of General V.K. Singh by Supreme Court as withdrawn on 10 February 2012, the media went ballistic and the government ecstatic. “General Loses Fight’, “VK Singh Back to the Wall” roared headlines. A cartoon on Facebook read “V.K. Singh is Dead”. Media reports were categorical in quoting the Supreme Court in saying, “in the case of Service Record of Gen VK Singh, the Date of Birth will continue to be maintained as 10 May 1950”, “the General has been told by the Supreme Court to Learn to Blow With The Wind”, “the General Has Been Advised Not to Wash Dirty Linen in Public”, “Base Documents of UPSC, NDA, IMA Give Date of Birth as 10 May 1950, Why Did General V.K. Singh Not Take Action to Change Them?” so on and so forth. With the Supreme Court ruling now out on the internet (see the 12 operative paragraphs of the Order linked at the bottom of this page), the above exceedingly well orchestrated media blitz of host of lies has come down like a pack of cards.

The Supreme Court order is very clear, in that:

  • The Order does NOT state that in the case of Service Record of Gen V.K. Singh, the date of birth will continue to be maintained as 10 May 1950. Wherever, the reference has been made to 10 May 1950, the Order is merely referring to what the Respondent (GoI) is saying.
  • The order does NOT tell the General to learn to blow with the wind.
  • The order does NOT tell the General not to wash dirty linen in public.
  • The Order does NOT refer to base / threshold documents as those of UPSC, NDA, IMA giving date of birth as 10 May 1950. NOR DOES it ask Gen VK Singh as to why dates in these were not corrected.
  • The Order effectively quashes the government letter rejecting the statutory complaint of General V.K. Singh.
  • Paragraphs 9, 10 and 11 of the Order fairly and squarely leaves the decision of the Date of Birth to the GoI.

So intense was the campaign against General V.K. Singh that even a former Judge Advocate General of the Army was brought on TV to say that Adjutant General’s Branch is NOT the authority for service record of officers in the Army— a statement in complete defiance of rules within the Army and watched in amazement by a dumbfounded military fraternity— both serving and veterans. It is a different issue that a few years’ back the same media had reported his faking attendance at a Law College and that he was operating a blog while in service against military regulations —and that a former Army Chief did not get the matter investigated for reasons best known to him.

Then of course was the disclosure by a seasoned former diplomat on a prominent national TV channel on 3rd February that the Prime Minister himself had “authorized” the series of trashy articles (with half baked assertions) against General V.K. Singh in a prominent newspaper published ex Chandigarh. The disclosure left the citizenry amazed including the realization that the PMO was doing this even while the matter was sub judice.

The overall malicious campaign was obviously aimed at forcing General V.K. Singh to throw in the towel in disgust, something that the veteran community too has been vigorously calling for on the web on grounds as to why should General V.K. Singh continue serving under a government that is hell bent on denigrating the office of the Chief of The Army Staff.

Even if General V.K. Singh had resigned in disgust —though it is his personal decision and he still may —the coast could have still been clear to implement the ‘Line of Succession’ so methodically worked out and put on course since 2006. The Vice Chief of Army Staff would possibly have been made to officiate. The two intervening senior incumbents hindering the ‘Line of Succession’ would possibly have been offered lucrative ambassadorships / governorships (as was apparently being offered to General V.K. Singh repeatedly by a senior union minister) hoping they would take the bait.

Four years back Mr Narsimhan as Director IB was asked to step down before his service was completed to accommodate someone else on promise of a governorship which the government kept. More recently, Mr K.C. Verma was asked to step down as R&AW Chief before completing his service on promise of being posted as DG NTRO but the post has been given to someone else.

For those who scoff at the ‘Line of Succession’, the following merits attention:

  • Why did the Military Secretary in 2006 make an illegal issue of the UPSC application when the UPSC had already accepted the Date of Birth of General V.K. Singh as 10 May 1951 decades back?
  • What further proof of malafide intentions of two former Army Chiefs is required when they deliberately ignore their respective Adjutant General’s records and ask Gen VK Singh to render certificates in “organizational interest’, which in any case have no legal standing for date of birth and would be questioned and inquired into by any court of law?
  • Why would the Ministry of Defence ignore all correspondence from the Adjutant General’s Branch, which is the authority for service record of officers?
  • Why did the Attorney General talk of the ‘Line of Succession’?
  • Why does the Defence Minister say that he has full sympathy with General V.K. Singh but that “his hands are tied”? If he is convinced that General V.K. Singh has been trying to change his date of birth to gain 10 more months in office (an obvious mischief, should that actually be the case) then why does he have “full sympathy” with General V.K. Singh? Who can tie the hands of the Defence Minister of India— orchestrators of the ‘Line of Succession’?
  • Why does a Prime Minister authorize derogatory media articles against his own Army Chief?

To those who think that General V.K. Singh raked up the issue once he became Army Chief to gain 10 more months of service, it should be pointed out that he became aware of the mischief only in 2006 and has been representing ever since. More importantly, how many officers will say no to a minimum five year ambassadorship / governorship being offered by no less than a union minister in exchange for 10 month tenure as Army Chief? He did not go to court for merely his date of birth but to ensure that this type of mischief is not repeated and to bring in accountability in the Army, Ministry of Defence and to expose the conspirators and co-conspirators.

The Defence Minister has recently stated that the date of birth issue of General V.K. Singh is closed. Far from it, the issue is very much open. The Supreme Court Order actually is in favour of General V.K. Singh, with the GoI letter rejecting his complaint as withdrawn and putting the ball fairly and squarely with the GoI. As of today, the Statutory Complaint of General V.K. Singh has not been disposed off by the GoI. Logically, GoI cannot issue retirement orders of General V.K. Singh without replying to his statutory complaint, albeit anything can be expected from this government.

GoI must reply immediately to the statutory Complaint of General V.K. Singh which is now with them for over last six months — their 30 December 2011 rejection letter having been withdrawn. This must be done straightaway. Adopting the ostrich-like approach of continue to sit on it, hoping the media will let it remain dormant and no one will RTI a response, would be naïve.

With reference to the diatribes against General V.K. Singh being engineered in the media, the powers that be would do well to note that in November last year a Supreme Court Bench declined to stay the Bombay High Court's interim direction of September 28 to a television channel to deposit with the High Court registry Rs.20 crore (in six weeks) and furnish a bank guarantee of a nationalised bank for Rs.80 crore (in 10 weeks) in connection with a defamation case of justice P.B Sawant.

Personally, I have met General V.K.Singh not more than five to six times in my entire service and that too not in an individual capacity. Last I met him was during the Army Day Parade on 15 January 2010 and I am not in communication with him. What agitates the vast majority of serving and veteran fraternity, including me, is the manner in which the office of the Army Chief is being dealt with to facilitate the ‘Line of Succession’ worked out and played on since 2006 — a concept applicable to an oligarchy or dictatorship but dangerous for democracy.

It is time the President of India — Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces — stepped in to ensure what is prescribed in the Constitution of India, thus providing justice to General V.K. Singh. There is still time!

Lt Gen Prakash C. Katoch, PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, SC is a Special Forces veteran of the Indian army