The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear a plea seeking stay on the appointment of Lieutenant General Dalbir Singh Suhag as the new Indian army chief. A vacation bench of justices Vikramajit Sen and S K Singh said "let the application (for stay on appointment of COAS) be listed before the appropriate bench in the week commencing from July 7." Suhag is scheduled to take over as Chief of Army Staff on August 1.
Appearing for Lieutenant General Ravi Dastane, who challenged Suhag's promotion as Army Commander earlier, senior advocate R K Anand mentioned before the vacation bench for early hearing of the plea, which was fixed for hearing in the month of September. Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar appeared for the Centre and said government has no objection for early hearing of the case.
Earlier this month, Centre has filed an affidavit in response to Dastane's petition and said the then Army Chief V K Singh's order for Discipline and Vigilance (DV) ban against Suhag was "premeditated, illegal and against principles of natural justice."
The government's affidavit had created political controversy as the Modi government gave affidavit against the decision of its own minister V K Singh, MOS for Development North Eastern Region. However, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley made a statement in the Parliament that Suhag's appointment as army chief is final.
Challenging Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) order allowing government's decision promoting Suhag as army commander (Eastern), Dastane has contended in his petition that the selection is mired in "favouritism" despite DV ban order by the then chief Singh, although it was lifted by his successor General Bikram Singh, Suhag was promoted.
In his final weeks as army chief, General VK Singh took disciplinary action against Suhag, blaming him for a botched intelligence operation in the north-east. The action meant that Lieutenant General Suhag could not be promoted to Army Commander, a per-requisite for becoming Army Chief.
Dastane's petition was first heard by the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), which had concluded that the allegations against Suhag, levelled by General VK Singh, were incorrect.