A Supreme Court bench comprising of Justice Vikramajit Singh and Justice Shiva Kirti Singh has reportedly agreed to hear a plea against the procedure undertaken in naming Lt.Gen. Dalbir Singh Suhag as the next Chief of Army Staff (COAS).
The UPA-II Government had named Lt. Gen. Suhag as the Army Chief to assume office after current Gen Bikram Singh retires on July 31. Lt. Gen. Suhag will assume charge as the army chief Aug 1.
Lt. Gen. Ravi Dastane has challenged the appointment of Lt.Gen. Suhag as the head of the Eastern Command, which made him eligible for post of Army chief. The matter will be heard in the second week of July, on counsel R.K. Anand’s demand for early hearing. Lt. Gen. Dastane demanded a stay on his appointment until the appeal is decided.
Lt. Gen. Dastane had approached the apex court in 2013 challenging the Armed Forces Tribunal’s ruling declining his challenge to the appointment of Lt. Gen. Suhag as the head of the Eastern Command. He had alleged favoritism in his selection. He had contended that despite Suhag being placed under a disciplinary ban, he was denied of the opportunity even though he was eligible.
The Government had justified its stand by stating that the grounds on which a disciplinary ban was imposed on Lt. Gen Suhag by Gen V K Singh between April and May 2012 were "premeditated", "vague" and "illegal". A Disciplinary and Vigilance ban was imposed by the then Army Chief Gen V K Singh for alleged "failure of command and control" in an operation carried out by an intelligence unit working directly under him when he was Dimapur-based 3 Corps commander. In December 2011, the Corps Intelligence and Surveillance Unit (CISU) under Lt Gen Singh had conducted a "raid" on a Jorhat-based businessman alleged to be a ULFA leader as well.
However, the CISU was out of the jurisdiction of 3 Corps and had allegedly stolen some gold and mobile phones and the whole raid was "cooked up" for material gains.
However, Suhag’s promotion was cleared by Gen. Bikram Singh a fortnight after V K Singh retired, by reversing the ban.
V.K. Singh is now a Minister of State with Development of North Eastern Region (independent charge), External Affairs, Overseas Indian Affairs as his portfolios. He had expressed his displeasure over the appointment via twitter. However, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley told Parliament earlier this month that the appointment of Lieutenant General Suhag was final. V.K. Singh’s reaction had also prompted the Opposition to contend that the government's stand in court amounted to a "vote of no confidence" in its minister.
Lt. Gen. Suhag will serve as the Army Chief for a tenure of two years and five months, till December 31, 2016. He will be the second officer from the Gorkha Rifles to become the Army chief, after the late Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw.