The appointment of next Army chief Lt Gen Bikram Singh, due to take over from General VK Singh on Thursday, has been dragged into fresh controversy.
The Supreme Court had last month dismissed a PIL against the Army chief designate after being told by the Centre that the Appointment Committee of Cabinet (ACC) had considered all charges against him. In a new twist, the original petitioners, led by eminent citizens Admiral L Ramdas, former CEC N Gopalaswami among others, have made a sensational claim that the file shown to Court was “doctored”.
The petitioners, seeking review of the Supreme Court’s earlier order passed on their PIL on April 23, have alleged that the Centre played a fraud on the Court by showing the file with several “interpolations”.
The review petition filed on Tuesday in the SC said, “The petitioners strongly believe that the original ACC file produced in the Supreme Court was doctored and the suspicion is further strengthened by the presence of page ’15A’ in the file…when the same should normally have been in running numbers.”
Another factor linked to this suspicion was the timing of the grant of clearance to Lt Gen Bikram Singh by the Intelligence Bureau, also placed in the file.
The allegation against Singh was two-fold. One related to his deputation as Deputy Force Commander in Congo as part of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in 2008. An Army Court of Inquiry (CoI) found that soldiers under Singh’s command were guilty of sexual misconduct. The other charge against him related to his alleged involvement in a fake encounter case of 2001 in Jammu and Kashmir while being posted as Commanding Officer of First Sector, Rashtriya Rifles. This issue is currently pending before Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
The review petition further raised questions on how the ACC file on March 3 this year exhibited an affidavit submitted before the J&K High Court by Ministry of Defence (MoD) on March 23. The petition contended if “institutional integrity” alone was the criteria to disqualify former CVC PJ Thomas who had a criminal trial pending against him, applying similar standards here would disqualify Singh, who was yet to be given a clean chit by the High Court.
With regard to his role at Congo, the petitioners pointed out that on April 13 the MoD sent a query to Army Headquarter seeking clarification on the role and responsibility played by Singh as Deputy Force Commander at Congo operations. However, the notification of his appointment was considered and cleared by the ACC on March 3, over a month prior to sending of the query.
To testify the strength of the Centre’s claim, the petitioners even sought a copy of the documents contained in the ACC file, but the same was denied to them under the Right to Information Act.
The review petition also challenged the claim of the Government to declare Singh an international civil servant during the Congo deputation. It attached opinions of retired Army officers to suggest that the assignment was purely military in nature and that Singh could enjoy no immunity for actions by soldiers under his command, thus attracting action against him under the relevant military and international laws.
-via The Pioneer.