SC raps government on Gen Singh's age issue; defers verdict

Gen Vijay Kumar SinghThe Supreme Court took strong objection today to the ''vitiated'' manner in which the defence ministry had taken its decision on Army commander-in-chief Gen Vijay Kumar Singh's date of birth.

The court adjourned further hearing till 10 February on Gen Singh's petition against the ministry's decision to fix his birth date as 10 May 1950. The general claims he was born a year later, in 1951. If his contention is accepted, his tenure as Army chief would have to be extended by a year.

Justices R M Lodha and H L GokhaleA bench of Justices R M Lodha and H L Gokhale slammed the government for its 30 December order in which the defence ministry directed the Army to resolve the age discrepancy in Gen Singh's Army records by simply fixing his year of birth as 1950.

The government took attorney-general G E Vahanvati's opinion on the issue before reiterating that his birth year would be considered as 1950 by the defence establishment.

The first time the government declared that Gen Singh's age was 62 and not 61 as he insists was in two orders last July. It had sought the attorney general's legal opinion at that time too.

The apex court wondered why the government should go back to the same man for an opinion after Gen Singh complained to the defence ministry against last July's order. ''Why didn't the government seek a fresh opinion?'' the bench asked.