In an unprecedented spat, the serving army chief, General Dalbir Singh Suhag has raked up a storm by accusing General (retired) VK Singh of “blocking his promotion with mysterious design and malafide intent,” according to a report in The Indian Express.
This is the first time that a serving Army general has spoken out openly against his predecessor and now a Union Minister in the Modi government.
According to reports, the army chief has submitted an affidavit in personal capacity claiming that the minister has tried to scuttle his promotion. “I was sought to be victimised by the then COAS (General VK Singh) with the sole purpose of denying me promotion to the appointment of Army Commander,” The Indian Express report quotes from his affidavit. Attacking his predecessor, Dalbir Singh also told the Supreme Court that VK Singh imposed a Discipline and Vigilance (DV) ban on him with the sole purpose of thwarting his rise through the ranks.
The affidavit in question here is filed as a response to a litigation initiated by Lieutenant (Retired) General Dastane alleging favouritism in appointment of General Dalbir Singh as army chief.
Union Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh has not responded to the allegations.
The current controversy, however, is not of recent vintage and has been making rounds ever since the UPA government decided to appoint Dalbir Singh as the army chief.
The issue dates back to April 2012, when the then army chief VK Singh had slapped a DV ban on Dalbir Singh following military investigation for allegedly botching up an intelligence operation in Assam’s Jorhat district in December 2011, according to a report in The New Indian Express. The investigation report alleged “failure of command control” in the army operations on the basis of which VK Singh had imposed the ban. Dalbir Singh, a Lt General at the time, was serving as the Corps Commander at Dimapur.
The ban was however, subsequently lifted on 5 June 2012 after General Bikram Singh took over from VK Singh, after the latter’s retirement. The move lifted all smoke around Dalbir Singh’s appointment, thereby making him the next army chief, as reported in The New Indian Express.
File image of General Dalbir Singh. PTIFile image of General Dalbir Singh. PTI
Interestingly, VK Singh was also mired in controversy at the time in a different case, wherein he sought to change his date of birth from 10 May, 1950 to 10 May, 1951 in order to postpone his impending retirement, according to The Times of India. The courts quashed his plea, forcing him to make alternate plans for retirement, which incidentally proved vital for Dalbir Singh’s appointment.
Meanwhile, another contender for the top job in the Indian Army at the time, Lt Gen (retd) Ravi Dastane filed a litigation in the civil top court alleging favouritism in Dalbir Singh’s appointment. His petition seeking an urgent hearing in the matter alleged that Dalbir Singh’s appointment was based on “wholly illegal” promotion despite a disciplinary and vigilance ban, according to a report in The Hindu. Luck again favoured Dalbir Singh as the Supreme Court denied Dastane an urgent hearing in the case, and the DV ban had already been lifted.
According to the report in The Indian Express, after clearing the DV ban, Bikram Singh also cleared Dalbir Singh’s promotion as GOC-in-C, Eastern Command, with effect from June 15, 2012, which made the current army chief eligible to be nominated for the post. The report also says that the Army Commander’s post was also reserved vacant for 15 days during the course of events. Following this Dastane moved court seeking an urgent hearing in the matter, which the court denied.
Incidentally, if the ban was still in force, it would have instead enabled Lt Gen Ravi Dastane to succeed Bikram Singh, according to The New Indian Express report.
Dalbir Singh’s current comments come as a response in the above case. Dalbir Singh has also termed the DV ban “arbitrary,” “pre-meditated” and “illegal”, stating it cannot be made a basis for challenging his appointment. “The passing of directions for initiating administrative action against me after about one month of having already finalised the Court of Inquiry smacks of a motivated, biased, arbitrary and malicious intent to punish me which the then COAS executed apparently as planned by him (VK Singh),” the Army chief has stated in his affidavit.