The rejoinder from Colonel Ratanjit Singh, Director – Media, Directorate of Military Intelligence, Indian Army (The Statesman, 16 April 2016) titled “Not quite QED” in response to my article, “Quad Erat Demonstrandum”, which appeared in these columns on 28 March 2016, appears to be yet another cover-up attempt by the Army to conceal the actual happenings within its rank and file behind the scene. Not that these things do not happen in other government departments, but in the Army it occurs with military precision, hidden behind the holy cow image that these men in uniform have been projected as of late.
To begin with, it is on military records that the present Chief of Army Staff, General Dalbir Singh Suhag, was served with a Discipline and Vigilance ban on promotion whilst he was GOC of 3 Corps based in Dimapur and that the letter was signed by Brigadier LI Singh in his capaciaty as Deputy Director General of the Army&’s Discipline and Vigilance Directorate. And it isa also a fact that if then Chief of Army Staff General VK Singh (now a Central minister) had won his case in the Supreme Court over the controversy with regard to his actual date of birth, then the next in line to succeed him were Lieutenant-Generals KT Parnaik and Ashok Singh; and should he fail, then it would be Lieutenant-Generals Bikram Singh and Dalbir Singh Suhag, in terms of seniority.
Fortunately or otherwise, General VK Singh lost the case and soon thereafter LtGeneral Bikram Singh became Chief of Army Staff. That left Lt-General Dalbir Singh Suhag, GOC, 3 Corps, as Chief of Army Staff in waiting, a fact that was transmitted on high frequency amongst all the top brass that matter. It is true that General Dalbir Singh Suhag was not GOC of the Sukna-based 33 Corps (that had hogged media headlines over the NOC given to an educational institution) which had brought trumped up charges against Brigadier LI Singh. But the assertion that the charges were levied against the Brigadier immediately after he had relinquished command of 164 Brigade should have read that after he had assumed charge as Deputy Director General of the Army&’s Discipline and Vigilance Directorate. And by that time it was clear that the GOC, 3 Corps, who had the DV promotion ban revoked by his immediate superior, General Bikram Singh, within two weeks of assuming office as Chief of Army Staff, was next in line to succeed him. This was more than enough for the ball to be set rolling as General Suhag&’s wishes must have seemed like a command for his juniors in 33 Corps, crawling when asked to bend.
Then shortly after having served as Deputy Director General of the DVD for just over two months, Brigadier LI Singh was shunted out. This almost coincided with General Suhag assuming charge as chief of Eastern Command at Fort William, Kolkata. That was when the media leak was made. As part of the Military Intilligence network, perhaps it would do good for Colonel Ratanjit Singh to look into how a photograph of the Brigadier, which had formed a part of his annual confidential report, found its way to the media, never mind the media questioning the Brigadier&’s integrity.
Then came the verdict of Delhi High Court in writ petition ©2635/2103 nullifying the Army&’s action of slapping a DV ban on the Brigadier and ordering his reinstatement at the Discipline and Vigilance Directorate. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court had, around the same time, ruled that high courts and the Armed Forces Tribunal were of the same status and that the former could not have jurisdiction over the latter. Thus, Brigadier LI Singh, who had knocked on the doors of Delhi High Court following the refusal by the Armed Forces Tribunal, went back to the latter instead of approaching the apex court, which readmitted his petition in OA 85/2013 vide its order dated 27 January 2016. The Army was also asked to give its reply within four weeks but somehow managed to postpone the issue.
The question of General Suhag, after assuming charge as Chief of Army Staff, continuing to hound Brigadier Singh became very clear when the Army sought a Special Leave Petition from the Armed Forces Tribunal to move the Supreme Court challenging the legality of the former to readmit the plea of the Brigadier, which was denied on two instances by the tribunal. The matter was also twice brought to the notice of the Union ministry of defence twice, first by the Deputy Legal Advisor (Defence) on 6 October 2015, and later by the Joint Secretary and Legal Advisor (Defence) on 28 October 2015.
Then General Suhag changed his tactics and had his men put up the file to the office of the Judge Advocate General of the Army, which comes under his jurisdiction, and got a “go ahead” to move the Supreme Court. General Suhag and his men must have known that obtaining the green signal from the Army&’s Judge Advocate General meant bypassing the Union defence ministry as well as flouting the directives of Union defence minister Manohar Parrikar given in February 2016. The move by General Suhag and party in seeking a stay from the Supreme Court apparently seems to be that by obtaining a stay it will automatically nullify the order of Delhi High Court given earlier staying the Army&’s action on Brigadier LI Singh and asking for his reinstatement to his earlier post in the DVD.
Armed with the Judge Advocate General&’s approval, the Army approached the Supreme Court and, as luck would have it, it was listed in the No.1 Court of the Chief Justice of the apex court. Then on 25 April 2016, Chief Justice TS Thakur and his companion judges comprising Justice R Banumathi and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit, dismissed the Army&’s plea for a stay in the Armed Forces Tribunal decision to readmit the case. In its observation, the apex court ruled that “there has been a delay of 228 days in filing of this application seeking leave of appeal for which no satisfactory explanation is forthcoming from the application seeking condonation. The prayer for condonation of delay is accordingly denied and the application for leave of appeal is dismissed on grounds of limitation as well as on merit”.
General Suhag&’s hands seems to be tied, following the Supreme Court verdict, for the Armed Forces Tribunal Principal Bench in Delhi is scheduled to meet in July and maybe the Chief of Army Staff cannot direct his subordinates to find more excuses to further delay in giving the Army&’s reply. The moot point is that while General Suhag and party may have rejoiced for a while, there is no denying that Brigadier LI Singh was reduced from war hero to mental wreck. Given the above facts, one might ask whether, if not vendetta on General Suhag&’s part, then “sweet revenge”?