The Supreme Court has been critical that the Defence Ministry rejected Army Chief General V K Singhs statutory complaint on the age issue by seeking opinion from the same legal officer twice. The ministry,in fact,sought advice from the Attorney General thrice on the issue over the period of one year and based most of its decisions on the replies it got.
The first opinion was sought on May 16,2011 after the Army approached the ministry with a request to reconcile records in the Military Secretary branch to record May 10,1951 as the correct date of birth. This reconciliation was requested based on the opinion the Army got from the Law Ministry in reply to an RTI query.
In the very first opinion itself,the AG held that the amendment of the date of birth was not legally tenable. The legal officer based his opinion on relevant documents and judgments of the apex court on related issues. The Army had,however,contended that a change of the birth date was not being sought and records were merely being reconciled.
The AG was again asked for his opinion on June 21,2011 when the Army Chief made a representation to the Defence Ministry on the issue. In his reply,the AG said he had no reason to revise his earlier opinion on the matter. This second opinion was the basis of which the ministry passed two orders,dated July 21 and July 22,rejecting Singhs representation. In his Supreme Court plea,the Army Chief has asked for reprieve from this order.
When the Army Chief finally filed a statutory complaint on August 25,2011 with Defence Minister AK Antony,the Defence Ministry for the third time sought the AGs opinion. The five questions that the ministry framed for the AG pertained to whether 1951 could be considered as the correct year of birth and whether a review of the official date of birth can be sought.
In his nine-page reply,the AG upheld that the ministry has made the right decision to consider 1950 as the correct year of birth. In fact,the AG called the statutory complaint on the basis of which he was replying as not maintainable under the Army Act. He,however,gave his opinion considering that the case involves the Army Chief. In its reply to the SC on February 10,the government is likely to use this point of non maintainability to withdraw its December 30 reply.