Controversy looms large in the Navy with the government moving in to appoint Vice Admiral R K Dhowan as the next chief, doing away after decades with the seniority principle that has been adopted in the past to select service chiefs.
While the case itself is unprecedented — no service chief has quit midway in a term like D K Joshi — a crisis is at hand given that the continuation of Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha as the western navy chief may become untenable after Dhowan’s appointment, given that the latter is junior to the former.
Sinha may take legal recourse — by first representing to the ministry and then going to court — by invoking the case of Sureesh Mehta’s appointment to the top post that was not deterred by the war room leaks controversy.
In its recommendation of Dhowan, the MoD has taken the view that Sinha was at the helm of affairs when several accidents took place at the western command that ultimately led to Joshi’s exit and that accountability lies with him too.
The final nail in the coffin that led to Joshi’s resignation was a fire on the Sindhuratna submarine in which two officers were killed. It has emerged in the inquiry that basic standard operating procedures of putting on gas masks were not followed that led to casualties.
Also, the commodore commanding submarines is facing court martial for several lapses, including the fact that the submarine did not have adequate life vests on board. The detailed inquiry report on the accident has been sent to higher authorities.
Sinha may need to take a decision on his course of action soon, given that Dhowan’s appointment is likely to be announced this week. Whether he puts in his papers or takes to legal recourse, the Navy’s top leadership is likely to be affected given that promotions and appointments are carried out on the basis of vacancies and seniority.