SC rejects PIL on Army chief's age; blasts petitioners

Gen V K SinghThe Supreme Court today threw out the public interest litigation in the case of Army commander-in-chief Gen V K Singh's birth date, which has become a cause celebre in recent weeks.
 
''In our view, the writ petition filed at the behest of an association is not maintainable ... and is dismissed,'' a bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia said. ''This is purely a service matter.''
 
The judges took strong exception to the fact that the PIL filed by an association of retired Army men was accompanied with opinions of former chief justices. "We are not concerned with the opnion of former Chief Justices," the bench said. It ordered that in the future, PILs which come with such opinions attached should be rejected.
 
The PIL, filed by The Grenadiers Association (Rohtak Chapter), quotes former Chief Justice of India J S Verma's opinion that the controversy created over the age of Gen Singh may be an effort to ''edge'' him out to avoid ''inconvenient truths'' from surfacing.
 
It also cites three other former chief justices of India as ruling that a school leaving certificate should be decisive in determining the age of a person.
 
Gen Singh claims his birth date to be a year later than what some Army records show; which would extend his tenure as Army chief by a year. The defence ministry has rejected his claims.
 
Gen Singh has himself filed a separate petition before the apex court in this regard, making him the first serving military chief to take the government to court.
 
In a petition filed in the Supreme Court earlier this week, he asked for an explanation of why his claim that he was born in 1950 has been rejected by the ministry of defence, which insists he was born a year earlier.
 
The government's concern is widely perceived to lie in the fact that updating the general's birth date would throw its Army succession plans out of gear, as Singh's tenure would have to be extended by a year. Many reports suggest it is trying to soothe Gen Singh's feathers through a back-door compromise.
 
Gen Singh's own petition in this regard is expected to be taken up late next week; but the rejection of the PIL by India's highest court of appeal could prove a pointer that he should seek a compromise which the government seems willing to offer.