The Supreme Court on Monday said pendency of Lt Gen Ravi Dastane’s petition challenging promotion of Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag as commander of Eastern Command would not hinder Lt Gen Suhag from becoming the next Army chief.
Lt Gen Dastane had sought a stay on the UPA government’s decision, reiterated by the NDA regime, to appoint Lt Gen Suhag as the next Army chief. He had challenged Lt Gen Suhag’s appointment as head of Eastern Command alleging that it could not have been done as then Army chief Gen V K Singh had imposed a ban on his promotion because of the Jorhat Army raid incident.
He had argued that if Lt Gen Suhag’s promotion as Army commander was shot down by the court, then his appointment as the next Army chief would be void.
But attorney general Mukul Rohatgi said Lt Gen Suhag’s appointment as the next Army chief had no relation with non-appointment of Lt Gen Dastane as Army corps commander. He explained the sequence of events leading to imposition of promotion ban on Lt Gen Suhag by then Army chief Gen V K Singh and the quashing of the same by his successor Gen Bikram Singh.
After hearing Lt Gen Dastane’s counsel R K Anand, a bench of Justices T S Thakur and Adarsh Goel said it saw no reason to stop the process (appointment of the next Army chief) just because of the pending petition.
“He (Lt Gen Dastane) is two ranks below. He is not even an Army commander. As and when he succeeds in the petition, he would be considered for Army commander’s post,” the bench said and adjourned hearing on the petition.
Lt Gen Suhag is set to take over from Gen Bikram Singh as Army chief on August 1, while Lt Gen Dastane will retire from service on August 31.
Lt Gen Dastane in his recent affidavit attached photographs of an Army officer getting ‘cosy’ with a woman at a party in an officers’ mess in 2010 and alleged that this happened when the eastern command was under the leadership of Lt Gen Suhag.
Rohatgi said this was “gross indiscipline” and an “attempt to scandalize” the Army as Lt Gen Suhag was not present at the party nor was he in-charge of Eastern Command at the relevant time.