M A I N   N E W S

Ministry weighs its options
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, February 3
The Ministry of Defence today began consultations on its options following the queries posed by the Supreme Court today in the Army Chief’s case over discrepancies in his date of birth.

While the Supreme Court asked the Attorney General to secure instructions from the Ministry on whether it was ready to withdraw its order on December 30, 2011 rejecting the Army Chief’s statutory complaint. Conversely, the court suggested, it could strike down the order and start hearing the case on merit.

Any decision to withdraw the order would mean a loss of face for the Ministry, which barely two weeks ago had asked the Army to reconcile the dates of birth of the Chief and report compliance. It could also imply that the Ministry would have to seek ‘independent’ legal opinion from people other than the A.G. and re-open the Army Chief’s statutory complaint.

With the Minister of Defence A.K. Antony being away in Kerala, and expected to return only on Monday, no decision is likely to be taken in a hurry. But the Ministry will have to firm up its position by Thursday or even earlier. The MoD, said sources in the Defence Ministry, would in all probability prefer to leave it to the wisdom of the apex court.

The Ministry’s position is that it had gone strictly by rules, that it cannot make an exception and that consulting the A.G. was its prerogative. It also maintains that it has been consistent and in both July and in December, it had turned down General V.K. Singh’s request to ‘change’ his year of birth from 1950 to 1951.

There is realisation, however, that if the apex court does quash the order of December 30 as ‘unconstitutional’, the legal fall-out could be far-reaching and affect a lot more than just the immediate case.

Sources in the Ministry held that they are more worried that the ministry could be made to look like a culprit in the eyes of the average citizen although the DoB mess is ‘a creation of the Army and its two branches’ that maintained different sets of DoBs for the Chief for the past four decades.

A senior Defence official said on condition of anonymity that in case the December 30 order is withdrawn by the MoD on its own, it would amount to acceptance by the Government that it made a mistake in treating Gen Singh’s case. The overall implications of withdrawing the order, therefore, are being closely studied, he added.





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