The Centre has told the Supreme Court that the alleged lapses which were made as grounds to impose disciplinary ban on Army Vice Chief Dalbir Singh Suhag by then Army Chief VK Singh between April and May 2012 were "premeditated", "vague" and "illegal".
Gen Singh, who is a now Minister of State in the NDA government having the Development of North Eastern Region, External Affairs and Overseas Indian Affairs as his portfolios, had placed Lt Gen Suhag under a Disciplinary and Vigilance (DV) ban. The ban was imposed on Lt Gen Suhag for alleged "failure of command and control" in an operation carried out by an intelligence unit working directly under him when he was working as the then Dimapur-based 3 Corps commander.
In its last days in office, the UPA-II government had named Lt Gen Suhag as the Army Chief to succeed incumbent Gen Bikram Singh when he retires on July 31. The Ministry of Defence, in a recent affidavit filed in the apex court registry, has said, "The alleged lapses observed by the then COAS, as reflected in show cause notice, were premeditated and issued in utter disregard to the legal provisions governing the court of inquiry, principles of natural justice... the lapses were vague, based on presumptions and legally and factually not maintainable." "Evidently, the entire exercise to issue show cause notice was premeditated and as per records, the directions issued in this regard, including imposition of the DV ban and issue of show cause notice were found to be illegal," it said.
The affidavit has been filed in response to a plea of Lt Gen Ravi Dastane alleging favouritism in the selection of Lt Gen Suhag as the Army commander who will succeed the Army Chief.
Lt Gen Suhag's promotion as Army commander was cleared by Gen Bikram Singh soon after VK Singh retired. The ban was also lifted. The affidavit said, "Once the imposition of the DV ban itself was found to be illegal, then the same would be non est ab initio (nullity from the inception) and it cannot in any manner come in the way of either the consideration or appointment of Suhag." The apex court will hear the case in September.
Earlier, the Court had sought responses from the Defence Ministry and the Army Chief on Lt Gen Dastane's plea alleging that proper procedure was not followed in the appointment of Eastern and Western Commanders. The senior army officer has alleged that the Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC) "has been reduced to a mere rubber stamp", by forwarding only one name per post of an Army Commander to the ACC for their approval. "This proposal forwarding only one officer for the post was also not accompanied by the entire 'selection material' considered in respect of officers in the zone of consideration thereby denying the ACC the ability to be able to carry out its first prime function of taking a decision with respect to appointments of Army Commanders, a function the ACC could only fulfil if it was given a choice to select the best profile among the two eligible officers placed before it," his plea has said.
Lt Gen Dastane has challenged the appointment of two of his senior officers, Lt Gen Dalbir Singh and Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra to the post of Army Commander of Eastern and Western Commands respectively, saying only one name per post was sent to the ACC based on the principle of seniority whereas "it was incumbent upon the respondents to consider the four senior officers who were eligible for the two vacancies".
Lt Gen Dastane had contended that he was the third senior-most officer eligible for the post of Army Commander of Eastern or Western Command.