NEW DELHI: Stung by a Defence Ministry affidavit in the Supreme Court that called his decision to impose a ban on Lt Gen Dalbir Suhag’s promotion “illegal” and “premeditated”, former Army chief General V K Singh may soon implead in the case to defend his decision. General Singh is now a Minister of State for Development of the North East Region in the Narendra Modi government.
According to sources, the General, who retired as Army chief in May 2012, will “continue the fight for justice and truth” in the case.
He is all set to meet the Prime Minister in this regard next week and seek his advice, as he strongly feels he was justified in issuing the Discipline and Vigilance (DV) showcause notice to Suhag in May 2012.
The previous UPA government had named Suhag as the Army chief-designate just three days before the recent Lok Sabha poll results were out.
“The General will meet the Prime Minister to seek his guidance on the next course of action as he feels his honour is at stake,” sources close to the retired General told Express.
“The DV showcause notice in May 2012 was based on materials available on record. The recommendation on the DV ban came from Brigadier-level officers who were handling the file in both the Judge Advocate General (JAG) and the Vigilance branches.
“The JAG branch is the legal adviser to the Army chief,” a source said.
The reasoning for the retired General to implead in the case, which was originally filed by Lt Gen Ravi Dastane who now serves in the tri-service Integrated Defence Staff Headquarters in Delhi, was that this fight has now been turned into a Suhag versus General V K Singh story.
Dastane had argued in his petition before the Supreme Court that on May 31, 2012, two vacancies for the Army Commander post had been created and he, as the third senior-most Lieutenant General then eligible, should have been promoted instead of Suhag, whose promotion was banned then due to the DV showcause notice.
Sources who know General V K Singh said that after the affidavit was filed by the government, everyone forgot that the DV ban had been imposed due to Suhag “brushing under the carpet” serious crimes committed.
They pointed out that the subsequent Court of Inquiry and Court Martial in the cases of murder and dacoity in two separate incidents had been proved to be true, with even police cases being registered for those crimes in the respective jurisdictions at Dimapur in Nagaland and Jorhat in Assam.
“The DV showcause notice cannot be issued on the whims and fancies of an individual, even if the person is the Army chief. There is a strict legal process involved and the DV ban should be justifiable in a court of law. Only when these conditions are fulfilled can a DV showcause notice be issued. This legal requirement has been complied with,” a source said.
Sources also pointed out that the JAG and the Vigilance officers to whom the cases had been referred to had recommended the DV showcause notice.
“The JAG branch reviewed the file and recommended the DV showcause against Suhag. The Vigilance branch concurred with the JAG recommendation. Only then did General V K Singh okay the showcause notice,” a source said.
After General V K Singh retired and General Bikram Singh became Army chief, the Brigadier in charge of Vigilance, L I Singh, was shunted out to North East and court martialled by bringing charges against him. “If this (action against Brigadier L I Singh) is not vendetta, what is?” a source asked.
To defend himself, General V K Singh will point out that he had provided more time, at Suhag’s insistence and beyond his own retirement, to enable the then 3 Corps Commander to reply to the showcause notice.
“What was at hand before General V K Singh was to either ignore the crimes and those who protected the criminals or to initiate action against them. The then Army chief decided to act so that criminals don’t go scot-free,” the source said.