Ex-Admiral Vishnu Bhagat, others file PIL against incoming Army chief

Controversies seem to be multiplying around the Indian Army ever since the row over Chief of Army Staff Gen Vijay Kumar Singh's retirement age that became public late last year.

Now, a group of retired senior officers of the armed forces and bureaucrats have filed a petition against Lt Gen Bikram Singh who is tipped to take over as the next COAS when Gen V Singh retires at the end of May. The petition, filed as a public interest litigation (PIL), alleges that Lt Gen Singh was involved in the killing of a 60-year-old man in March 2011, when he was posted in Kashmir.

The Supreme Court has not yet admitted the petition, filed by a group led by Adm (retd) Laxminarayan Ramdas. It includes Vishnu Bhagwat (the Chief of Naval Staff who was cashiered by the earlier Bharatiya Janata Party government) and former chief election commissioner N Gopalaswamy.

The group is clearly in favour of Gen V K Singh in his perceived battle with the government. It seeks that he be retained as COAS and a new successor found. They say Lt Gen Singh's appointment is not based on merit but on extraneous considerations.

Unusually, the government named Lt Gen Singh, currently heading Eastern Command, almost as soon as Gen Singh lost his age case in the Supreme Court, in a move aimed at curbing speculation after the unprecedented case by a serving Army chief against the government that appointed him. But the move could backfire.

Listing a host of allegations against Lt Gen Singh, the petitioners said he was not fit to command the 1.3 million-strong Indian Army. The petition was filed by advocate Kamini Jaiswal, who has been behind several similar petitions along with Prashant Bhushan, a PIL activist and leading member of Anna Hazare's anti-corruption movement.