The Supreme Court Monday said that it would look into the plea of Lt.Gen. Ravi Dastane (retd.), who had challenged the appointment of present army chief Gen. Dalbir Singh Suhag as eastern command chief before his elevation, but only as far as monetary benefits were concerned.
A bench of Justice T.S.Thakur, Justice A.K.Goel and Justice R. Banumathi said that the hearing into the plea of Lt. Gen. Dastane – who retired Sep 30 – would be restricted to “other issues of pay, pension and other monetary benefits” as it had July 7 refused to suspend the appointment of Lt. Gen. Dalbir Singh Suhag as next army chief which was sought to stayed by Lt. Gen. Dastane who contended that he had a better claim.
Lt.Gen. Dastane, who retired Sep 30, had challenged the selection process resulting in denial of his being promoted as eastern command chief, thereby rocking his chances of becoming army chief himself.
Gen. Suhag succeeded Gen. Bikram Singh as the army chief Aug 1.
At the outset of the hearing Monday, Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi said that nothing survives in the petition of Lt.Gen. Dastane as he had already retired on Sep 30.
The government has consistently maintained that the appointment of then Lt.Gen, Suhag as eastern command chief was based on his being the senior-most for the consideration for the post, and the the second senior most – Lt.Gen. Sanjiv Chachra – was appointed as the western command chief.
In July 7 hearing, Rohtagi had told the court that Lt. Gen. Dastane was third in the list of seniority and wanted to dislodge Lt. Gen. Suhag from the first position so that he could graduate to the second position and get eligible for consideration as chief of the eastern or western command and eventually for army chief.
The government had also justified the appointment Gen. Suhag as army chief saying that there was nothing in the allegations levelled by Lt. Gen. Dastane, and that Suhag fulfilled all the criteria for the post and was at the top in the seniority list.
The government had had told the court when the names of Lt.Gen. Suhag and Lt.Gen. Chachra were sent to the Cabinet Committee on Appointments, there was no administrative, disciplinary or vigilance proceedings against the former.
However, while their names were being considered, a disciplinary vigilance (DV) ban was imposed on him by the then army chief Gen. V.K.Singh and it was communicated to the cabinet secretariat. This resulted in putting on hold his appointment, but it was cleared after the Gen. Bikram Singh reversed the ban after going through the response by Lt. Gen. Suhag to the show cause notice.
Lt.Gen. Dastane had contended that if he had been appointed as eastern command chief then, “he would have definitely been considered for the post of chief of army staff as he had more than four years to serve when he was empanelled for the post of corps commander”.
He had alleged favouratism to favour Gen. Suhag and had moved the apex court challenging the armed forces tribunal’s Sep 6, 2013, verdict rejecting his plea.