Screw This, I'll See You In Court, Army Chief Tells Govt

Defence Minister AK Antony & Army chief Gen VK Singh
Most people didn't think this would happen. Most said it was an option that was available to Chief of Army Staff General Vijay Kumar Singh, but nobody actually thought he'd go ahead and do it. (Well, almost nobody -- I did a story on Headlines Today on Jan 1 quoting sources who said they were positive that the General planned to sue the Indian government in the Supreme Court) over the protracted and unseemly public debate over his year of birth. (For a full primer into the issue, read Sandeep Unnithan's cover story in India Today magazine).

The story broke this evening while I was (and am) far away from Delhi (that didn't stop the channel from tracking me down for a phone-in though). But what a story it is. Never before in the history has a serving Chief of Army Staff sued the government. It is not only unprecedented, but has been unthinkable. Even though my sources said they had no doubt that the Chief planned to actually sue the government, I remained skeptical. This is big deal. As most people know, the General has predicated his side of the argument on "honour, justice and integrity", something that a lot of people don't fully buy, considering that he is after all the Chief of Army Staff, and cannot aspire to more within the confines of his career in uniform. On the other hand, there's the history of the current government's almost uniform aloofness to military issues, even emotive ones like veteran pensions.

The whole unseemly affair now stands to play out in the country's apex court, and by no account is it going to be pretty. The Chief's decision to go to court also shows up three of the most powerful persons in India's Union Cabinet, for their utter failure to resolve the issue amicably and outside the shadow of political intrigue: Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee (who had been especially appointed by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi to troubleshoot the issue) and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has proven yet again that he has a penchant for letting things fester until they're ready to blow in his face.

It's an interesting start to the new year folks. Don't exhale.

Photo / Deccan Chronicle

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