SC won’t stall army chief’s appointment

Dalbir Singh Suhag The Supreme Court Monday refused to suspend Lt.Gen. Dalbir Singh Suhag’s appointment as the next Indian Army chief, as sought by an officer who contended he had a better claim.

“There is no reason for us to stay,” Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel told counsel R.K. Anand for petitioner Lt.Gen. Ravi Dastane.

Lt.Gen. Dastane had challenged Lt.Gen. Suhag’s appointment as the GOC-in-C Eastern Command, which paved the way for Suhag being appointed the next army chief to succeed incumbent Gen. Bikram Singh.

At the outset, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the court that Lt.Gen. Suhag was appointed GOC-in-C Eastern Command as he was the senior-most contender for the post.

He said the second senior-most officer, Lt.Gen. Sanjiv Chachra was appointed the GOC-in-C Western Command. He said there were only two vacancies.

Rohatgi told the court Lt.Gen. Dastane was third in the list of seniority and wanted to dislodge Lt.Gen. Suhag from the first position so he could graduate to the second position and get eligible for consideration as the GOC-in-C Eastern or Western Command and eventually for the army chief.

As Anand told the court Lt.Gen. Suhag was considered entirely on the basis of seniority, Rohatgi said at that level of seniority, the merit of the officers in the consideration zone is absolutely comparable, thus the seniority gets preference.

Rohatgi told the court that at the stage when Lt.Gen. Suhag was considered for elevation as the GOC-in-C Eastern Command, he was absolutely fit for consideration and suffered from no disability.

Responding to posers by the court, Rohatgi told the court that when the names of Lt.Gen. Dalbir Singh Suhag as the GOC-in-C Eastern Command and Lt.Gen. Sanjiv Chachra as the GOC-in-C Western Command were sent to the Cabinet Committee on Appointment, there was no administrative, disciplinary or vigilance proceedings against Lt.Gen. Suhag.

However, while their names were being considered, Disciplinary Vigilance (DV) ban was imposed on Lt.Gen. Suhag by the then army chief Gen. V.K. Singh and it was communicated to the cabinet secretariat. This resulted in putting on hold Lt.Gen. Suhag�’s appointment as the GOC-in-C Eastern Command.

However, the appointment was cleared after Gen. Bikram Singh reversed Gen. V.K. Singh’s DV ban after going through the response by Lt.Gen. Suhag to the show cause notice issued by then Gen. V.K. Singh.

Lt.Gen. Dastane, in his earlier application, contended if he had been appointed the GOC-in-C Eastern Command instead of putting on hold Lt.Gen. Suhag and clearing him later, “he (Lt.Gen. Dastane) would have definitely been considered for the post of the Chief of Army Staff as he had more than four years to serve when he was empanelled for the post of Corp Commander”.

Contending he had a strong case in his favour, Lt.Gen. Dastane in his application said a “great injustice is being done to appellant (Lt. Gen. Dastane) as he has remained as Lt.Gen. (Corp Commander) for nearly four years without being considered for the post of Army Commander”.

Earlier, the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) by its September 6, 2013, verdict had rejected Lt.Gen. Dastane’s plea challenging the appointment of Lt.Gen. Suhag as the GOC-in-C Eastern Command.

Lt.Gen. Dastane’s main plea challenging the AFT’s verdict is directed to come up for hearing in September 2014.

Lt.Gen. Dastane moved the apex court Dec 17, 2013, against the AFT order.