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Army’s latest battle is over who will be chief four years later

Lt Gen V K Singh is set to be next chief but his date of birth in dispute; Army chief orders a probe.

Written by Manu_pubby | New Delhi |
January 24, 2012 11:20:16 am

Rivalry over who will head the organisation in 2012-13 has landed the Army in an embarrassing spot with the matter reaching the very top and the Cabinet Secretary stepping in to demand a clarification. In fact, the Army Chief instituted a high-level inquiry into the case today.

At the centre of the row is confusion about the date of birth of Lt Gen V K Singh, currently heading the Ambala Strike Corps and tipped to be Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor’s successor. The Army’s internal records show two different dates of birth for Singh who is slated to take over as the next Chief of Army Staff in late 2009.

The Adjutant General (AG) branch, the official record keeper of the Army, shows his date of birth as 10 May, 1951 while the Military Secretary (MS) branch, in charge of promotions and postings, shows it as 10 May, 1950.

While Singh, regardless of the two dates, will make it as the next Army Chief, his tenure will be cut short by one year if 1950 is taken as his year of birth — the rule book says that a Chief can serve for three years or till the age of 62, whichever comes earlier.

If Singh does not serve a full three year tenure and retires early, a certain section of officers will be in contention for the Army Chief’s post. These officers would otherwise retire if Singh serves the full term till 2013.

This rivalry has apparently led to the digging up of old records that showed the two different dates of birth. The confusion has been traced back to the time when Singh joined the National Defence Academy (NDA) where his date of birth was wrongly entered as 1950 due to a clerical error.

It is learnt that in his original application to joint the Army, Singh’s date was wrongly entered due to a clerical error at his school. This mistake was subsequently corrected by Singh and the correct date of birth was confirmed and registered at the AG’s branch.

But the MS branch, in charge of promotions, did not update the records even though Singh had been entering 1951 as his year of birth in all his annual appraisal forms. Sources say that despite repeated reminders, the MS branch did not change his date of birth.

The matter surfaced earlier this month after his file was moved to the Cabinet Secretariat for clearance. A letter by the Cabinet Secretary has now sent the top brass into action.

It is learnt that General Deepak Kapoor today ordered a high-level inquiry into the matter to investigate the reasons behind the MS branch not updating Singh’s birth date in its records.

The investigation will also establish whether the omission was a genuine mistake or a deliberate attempt by a certain section of officers to gain an advantage in selection to the Chief’s post in 2012-13.

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