EC clears new army chief's appointment

On Monday the defence ministry recommended the name of Dalbir Singh Suhag, the seniormost lieutenant general in the army, to the Appointments Committee

GN Bureau | May 13, 2014

The voting for the biggest elections in India’s history is, finally, over. So is a major controversy over appointment of the country’s chief of army staff (COAS): on Monday the defence ministry recommended Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag’s name to the Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC).

Caught in the quagmire of election model code of conduct, the appointment for the army chief was hanging even as the present chief of the army staff, General Bikram Singh, retires on July 31.

On March 27, the Election Commission (EC) had given a go ahead to the ministry to make top appointments such as the COAS. But permission was sought again from the poll panel a fortnight ago as the opposition, BJP, had raked up the issue asking for a stay on new appointment till the new government was formed.

On April 25, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy wrote to president Pranab Mukherjee urging him not to approve the new appointment.

“The United Progressive Alliance government's endeavour to announce the next COAS is in direct contravention to the established convention, both in terms of time frame and also with regards to certain ongoing investigations that are currently before the judicial system,” Swamy wrote in the letter.

Former army chief general VK Singh too had petitioned the EC not to go ahead with the new appointment.

VK Singh had slapped a discipline and vigilance promotion ban on Lt Gen Suhag for "abdicating responsibility” during a 2011 operation in Jorhat, Assam. The present incumbent Bikram Singh had revoked the ban though.

Suhag is the seniormost lieutenant general in the army presently and next in line is lieutenant general Ashok Singh who happens to be VK Singh’s relative.



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