A group of former bureaucrats and armed forces officers today moved the Supreme Court against the appointment of Lieutenant General Bikram Singh as the next Chief of the Army Staff.
The 60-page PIL,filed by Admiral (retd) Ramdas,veteran journalist Sam Rajappa,former chief election commissioner N Gopalaswami and activist and former civil servant M G Devasahayam,says Singhs appointment was motivated by personal and political considerations. It also refers to the apex court decision to quash the appointment of P J Thomas as chief vigilance commissioner after his eligibility to occupy the post came under a cloud.
Bikram Singh currently heads the Eastern Command and is scheduled to take over the top post from General V K Singh on May 31,2012.
The PIL mentions three instances involving Singhs official past which,it says,are under a shadow of doubt.
The first case it highlights is his alleged involvement in a fake encounter in Jammu and Kashmir in March 2001. The mother of the man killed,Zaituna,has moved the Jammu and Kashmir High Court claiming that her son was a daily wage earner and was killed in a staged encounter in Anantnag district and branded a foreign militant.
Bikram Singh was at the time a brigadier commanding the Rashtriya Rifles and was injured in the encounter and given a medal. Another officer and a jawan lost their lives in the exchange. In a recent response to the J&K High Court,the Defence Ministry said the encounter was genuine.
In todays PIL,the petitioners question the eligibility of the Lt General to lead the 1.3 million-strong Army when there is a pending litigation against him in the HC,which may lead to a criminal trial.
Going by the Supreme Courts own judgment annulling P J Thomass appointment as CVC,Bikram Singh cannot be considered an officer who will be able to independently and impartially command the Indian Army,the petition alleges.
The second case the petitioners talk about is a PIL in the Supreme Court accusing the General of failing to control certain errant officers deputed under him for a UN peacekeeping mission in Congo in 2008. The petition claims that an Army internal Court of Inquiry is pending in the case.
Lt Gen Bikram Singh was deputy force commander of a multi-nation UN peacekeeping mission in Congo. He had also served as UN observer in Nicaragua and El Salvador during the early 1990s.
The third case the PIL filed today raises is how Lt General Bikram Singh can be officiated as Army Chief-designate when the Supreme Court order of February 10,2012,on the row over the date of birth of General V K Singh leaves the ambiguity over the latters date of birth still unresolved.
The court had not gone into the merits of whether Singh was born in 1950 or 1951 while ruling that the governments decision on his date of birth would apply for his service matters.