There are two different dates of birth for Army Chief General VK Singh in official records, one with the Adjutant General’s branch in Army Headquarters that lists May 10, 1951 and the other at the Military Secretary’s branch that shows the date as May 10, 1950.
As the Defence Ministry takes its time to examine what date it should agree on and with that the future of who the next Chief of Indian Army will be, correspondences between top brass of the Army on this one issue show a bitter battle, that has pitted generals against generals since 2008.
The names are all too familiar, former Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor, his Military Secretary, now retired and the man facing charges in the Sukhna scam, Lt General Avadesh Prakash and the current Chief General VK Singh.
(A) 1 July 2008: Letter from General VK Singh to General Deepak Kapoor, Chief of Army Staff “Since my last discussion on the subject in your office, I have mulled over the entire handling of the issue in great detail. I must also confess that I have been greatly hurt by the aspersions cast on my integrity and military reputation.At the same time I must also emphasise that I have the greatest regard and faith in you, not only as Chief but also as an elder role model. Thus I had no qualms in giving in writing whatever I was asked for, despite my reservations.”
This one letter is now being seen as a commitment by General VK Singh to stand by his date of birth as 1950. Many believe the case had been shut with this one commitment. But a closer scrutiny of the same letter and future correspondences point to the contrary, that the case was far from over, in fact had the makings of a messy tangle.
General VK Singh, in the same letter dated July 1, 2008 goes on to say, “I would want to know what are the constraints mentioned by the MS branch which compel them to maintain 10 May 1950 despite the SSC certificate and despite me mentioning 10 May 1951 in all my CRs (confidential reports). How is that CRs which are assiduously checked never rang any bell on this issue in MS Branch till I was to move on promotion as Lt Gen, Is it not an oddity sir ?”
He further questions, “how the MS banch carries out the verification of age since on the basis of the SCC certificate the AGs branch maintained records that showed 1951 as the year of birth.”
General VK Singh (then Lieutenant General) also points out that the entire issue be looked at dispassionately and if there were vested and parochial interests, which have clouded the issue, then they must be negated.
(B) The tone and tenor become stronger in a letter dated February 2009 from VK Singh to Lieutenant General Avadhesh Prakash, then Military Secretary once again reiterating that the SSC/10th board certificate, in effect is the authority for all purposes in matters related to age.
That the UPSC (in which the Date of Birth is noted as 1950) does not verify Date of Birth, it only scrutinises the application form for correctness and forwards it.
(C) It’s still not the end of the issue and three months later in an even more strongly worded , dated May 6, 2009, once again to the Military Secretary Lieutenant General Avadesh Prakash, General VK Singh writes:
“Your letter clearly points out that your branch has no system for verification of date of birth. It is also clear that your predecessor has deliberately not given out the correct fact to the Chief that the MS branch does not carry out any Verification of the Date of the Birth.”
“Let me also point out that the acceptance has been given in good faith because the Chief asked me to do so and not because of what your Branch was saying. Hence this argument cannot be used to hide facts and not provide details asked for.”
So even as the force and the Defence Ministry grapples with another controversy regarding its top officer, it is important to note that these flurry of letters were running parallel to investigations in the Sukhna land scam, where then Eastern Army Commander, Lieutenant General VK Singh had ordered a Court of Inquiry that was to later reach the top, to the Military Secretary Lieutenant General Avadesh Prakash and the Chief, General Deepak Kapoor.