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Tribune analysis
Army Chief’s Age Row-Part 2
A matter of Honour vs Propriety
The second big anomaly
By Raj Chengappa
Editor-in-Chief

PART 1: A matter of Honour vs Propriety
PART 2: The second big anomaly
PART 3: The Twist in the Tale
PART 4: The General’s Gambit
PART 5: The General gives his ‘word’
PART 6:
A matter of propriety vs integrity

Among the first things that every Gentleman Cadet who joins the National Defence Academy (NDA) at Khadakwasla is asked to do is to write a brief autobiography. When Vijay Kumar Singh reported to the NDA on 13 July 1966 to begin his training, he wrote in his autobiography, “I was born on 10th May 1951 in Poona. My father is an army officer. I have two younger brothers and a younger sister. I first went to St Columbus High School and did my first class from there. Then I joined the Birla Public School, Pilani.”

He continues his autobiography in a matter-of-fact way stating: “In school I used to play all the games but was good at basketball, football and hockey as well as volleyball. I am also a good rider and was one of the best at school. I have also done a lot of hiking. I have gone up to a height of 15,000 ft. As for my hobby I collect leaves and sketches.”

Proof of birth

While he does come across as a confident and accomplished lad, the most important point is that he writes his date of birth as 10 May 1951. These are among the several documents that General Vijay Kumar Singh, Chief of Army Staff, cites as proof in his statutory complaint to the Union Government challenging the order to maintain his date of birth as 10 May 1950. It is also cited in his writ petition to the Supreme Court which is yet to be taken up for hearing.

In the first part of the series that appeared in The Tribune yesterday, it was pointed that the first anomaly in his date of birth noting occurred in the application form for the NDA examination prepared by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). In the form, Vijay Kumar Singh filled his date of birth as 10 May 1950.

The UPSC did point out the discrepancy in June 1966 when Singh was provisionally selected for the NDA after passing the examinations and clearing his medicals. Singh claimed in his petition that he then went to the UPSC’s office personally in Delhi and along with a letter from his father submitted a provisional matriculation certificate which gave his date of birth as 10 May 1951 and asked for a correction in the records.

In his statutory complaint Singh cites this as proof of him having given documentary evidence to correct his date of birth and also evidence that the UPSC had accepted it otherwise the UPSC would not have allowed him to join the NDA. As he stated, “ As far as I was concerned the UPSC had noted my date of birth as May 10, 1951 even before I was selected for training at the NDA.”

The MoD in its order of 30 December 2011 rejecting the statutory complaint made by General Singh states that, “There is no record either with the complainant or with the Army Headquarters or the UPSC to show that the UPSC had accepted the change in the date of birth. The complainant has also referred to some other correspondence such as submission of School Leaving Certificate which is not available with either the UPSC or in the original dossier sent by the UPSC to Army HQ. The assertion of the complainant that as far as he is concerned the UPSC had noted his date of birth as 10 May1951 is not supported by any document on record.”

To prove that barring the UPSC form he had consistently maintained his date of birth as 10 May 1951, General Singh cites a whole range of documents during that period in which it is listed as such. Among them is the SP Form-103 which every candidate seeking commission in the armed forces has to fill up before he appears before the Service Selection Board (SSB) interview. General Singh filled up his form on May 9, 1966 and in it had entered 10 May 1951 as his date of birth.

The SP Form-103 had to be separately attested by the DIG, CID and IB, Rajasthan (where he was studying) and the DIG, CID and IB, Punjab (as VK Singh had shown Hisar then in Punjab as his native place). General Singh states that verification done by these authorities on 26 June 1966 reflects the date of birth as 10 May 1951.

Counter arguments

The MoD in its order rejecting Singh’s statutory complaint points out that the five copies of the SP-103 forms were forwarded to both revenue and police authorities of Rajasthan and Punjab “for verifying the character and antecedents with reference to the place of residence of the complaint.” The implication was that these authorities were not vouching for the date of birth that Singh had entered in the SP-103 form but his character and standing.

The MoD then point out that on 9 May 1966 the same date as General Singh had filled up the SP Form 103, another form called SP-Form 44 was filled up at the SSB. On that the date of birth was recorded as 10 May 1950. The form also records the verification by the revenue and police authorities at the time of selection to the NDA in 1966 apart from other details such as his marks in the interview and allotment to the 36th Course at NDA.

General Singh maintains in his plaint that the SP-44 form “is prepared before a candidate is sent to the SSB well before the selection for NDA and is filled on the basis of the UPSC Application Form.” Perhaps he didn’t notice that it was filled on the same day that he had filled up SP-103 form.

The MOD in its order rejecting General Singh’s statutory complaint states, “The importance of Form SP-44 vis-ŕ-vis SP-103 cannot be discounted since it forms an integral part of an officer’s recruitment, from the stage of his selection by the UPSC, training at the NDA and Indian Military Academy and till the allotment of a Unit in the army, recording his marks in the interview and details of the course, roll number at NDA and IMA and IC number.”

At the NDA, which is a three-year course, General Singh was initially keen on joining the Air Force and gave it as his first preference. But he recalls that his father, Colonel Jagat Singh, talked him out of it and advised him to join the army. After he passed out of the NDA as is usual all graduating Gentlemen Cadets are sent for a year to the Indian Military Academy (IMA) in Dehradun to do a year’s officer training course.

At the IMA every candidate has a separate Dossier maintained including personal particulars and training record. The second big anomaly occurs when Vijay Kumar Singh fills up the form for his Dossier and in the date of birth column he writes 10 May 1950. Singh had arrived at the Academy on 21 July 1969 and the form in question was filled up by him on 29 July 1969, eight days later. It was countersigned by an officer of the IMA on July 30, 1969.

Second anomaly

As an explanation as to why he wrote1950 instead of 1951 on the Dossier, Singh states that the “orders were to fill the column for date of birth as per the UPSC application form.” The MoD hammers that anomaly home in its order dismissing Singh’s complaint stating, “No order directing this is forthcoming on the records. If the UPSC had already noted his date of birth as 10 May 1951 as claimed by the complainant he could have indicated this date as his birth. However, the date of birth was indicated as May 10, 1950.”

The MoD further points out that the ‘Record of Particulars’ in the IMA Dossier reads as “Gentleman Cadet- Course No. — 45th Regular Course. Name — Vijay Kumar Singh, IMA No. 10303, Date of Birth — 10 May 1950; Commissioned into — Infantry, Personal Number Alloted — IC 24173, Date of Commission — 14 June 1970.” It also stated that the IMA’s Final Assessment and Confidential Report of June 1970 show the date of birth as May 10, 1950.

The IMA mix-up

Singh in his petition to the Government states that he brought the discrepancy in the date of birth to the notice of the IMA authorities at that point itself. He claims that the IMA then corresponded with Birla Public School, Pilani, where he studied, asking it to provide a certificate giving the correct date of birth which it did. Singh states, “Accordingly the date of birth by the IMA in my Record of Service which is sent to the Adjutant General branch (MP 5/6) after commissioning is also 10th May 1951.”

The MoD in its ruling shot down Singh’s claims stating, “There is no record to support his assertion. If the authorities in the IMA had corrected the date of birth as 10 May 1951, their Dossier, the ‘Record of Particulars’ and Final Assessment and Confidential Report should not have continued to show the date of birth as May 10, 1950.”

Singh, however, has other evidence to counter such assertions. In his petition he states that the IMA issues an identity card with a unique number that is carried by the officer throughout his service. Importantly, the ID card has 10 May 1951 as his date of birth. Also the ‘Record of Service IAFZ 2041’, which is prepared on the commissioning of an officer and his joining a unit carries a similar date. Singh was commissioned in the Indian Army on 14th June 1970 and was posted to an Infantry Unit, the 2nd Rajput Battalion, based then in Delhi.

The MoD in its orders is hard put to explain this contradiction. It relies on the opinion given by Goolam Vahanvatti, the Attorney General of India, who pointed out that the requisite checking was not done by the Manpower Planning Directorate regarding verification of the date of birth in Singh’s case at this stage.

The MoD goes on to state that the Record of Service was a document prepared by Singh himself and then countersigned by the officiating Commanding Officer. It charges Singh with “not correctly representing his date of birth in the form IAFZ 2041.” After faulting the concerned authorities responsible for preparing and authenticating the record, it concludes, “In the absence of authentication of 10 May 1951 as the date of birth, its basis for the Record of Service cannot be accepted.”

Conflicting records

By now, it is apparent that the two branches of the Army, the Adjutant General (AG) Branch and the Military Secretary (MS) Branch, were maintaining two different dates of birth for Vijay Kumar Singh. While the AG looks after recruitment and keeps tracks of all Gentleman Cadets selected, the MS takes over once the officer is commissioned and maintains his records of service and oversees his postings and promotions. There was no reconciliation of the records then and has not been to this date.

There is another peculiar turn of events. The UPSC rule states that the original matriculation certificate must be sent to the concerned Army directorate as soon as it is received. Though Singh passes his Class X board examinations in 1966, he received his certificate only in 1971 because of the oddest set of circumstances.

According to him, by the time the certificate is sent to his father’s unit he had been transferred out. It was then sent to his village in Hisar where it lay unattended till Singh came home in 1971 and discovered it. On the certificate his date of birth is shown as 10 May 1951. Singh said he had forwarded it to the AG Branch that year itself. The delay in submitting his original certificate, along with the anomalies in the entries in forms, would again compound his quest to correct the wrong he strongly believes occurred.

Tomorrow: The twist in the tale

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