Give me back my year - general's plea to court

By Andrew Buncombe

Indian authorities have found themselves in the embarrassing situation of being taken to court by their army chief in a move to determine how old he is.

General V.K. Singh has asked the Supreme Court to declare that he is a year younger - at 61 - than the Government claims.

Singh, citing his record of birth, insists that he was born on May 10, 1951, and is not due to retire until March next year.

But the Ministry of Defence says its records show he was born 12 months earlier, on May 10, 1950, and should stand down from his post on May 31 this year.

The dispute between the Government and the commander of the world's second-largest standing army has stunned many observers.

Some have questioned whether the court should be using its time for such matters, and comments from a government official yesterday appeared to underline the sense of the ridiculous.

M.M. Pallam Raju, a junior Defence Minister, said in New Delhi: "It is not a healthy precedent either for the ministry or the armed forces. It is not a matter for public debate and, like I said, it's an unhealthy precedent."

Singh, who met Government officials yesterday, appealed to the court after the Ministry of Defence rejected his request that it change the records.

Reports in the Indian media say Singh is trying to save his reputation rather than extend his tenure.

The Times of India reported that Singh, who served in the 1971 Indo-Pakistani war, has the support of four former chief justices, who say he has been consistent on his date of birth since he joined the National Defence Academy.

- Independent

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