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Supreme Court defers hearing of army chief age row petition to Feb 10

The Supreme Court on Friday deferred Chief of Army Staff General Vijay Kumar Singh's writ petition that seeks to settle the dispute over his date of birth till February 10.

The apex court's expected ruling was deferred reportedly to give both sides some more time to sort out the matter. Friday's hearing came a day after General Singh met Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee amid speculation that it was the government's last attempt to seek an out of court settlement.

Mukherjee had earlier led the government's efforts in seeking a compromise with the army chief to avoid a legal battle. The meeting took place in the backdrop of the government facing the flak in the Supreme Court in the 2G case.

The bench comprising justices R. M. Lodha and H. L. Gokhale will hear the case with no precedent. This is the first instance of an army chief suing the government.

The dispute is over the fact that General Singh maintains he was born on May 10, 1951. But the government has recorded his date of birth as May 10, 1950. The reason for discrepancy is two sets of records held in two branches of the army headquarters -- the adjutant general's office and the military secretary to the army chief's office.

The government recognised May 10, 1950 as Singh's date of birth on the basis of a series of records, including a UPSC form filled by him before joining the National Defence Academy. It also has several other documents to argue that he was born on 1950.

The army chief, though, claims he was born in 1951, which has been recorded in his matriculation certificate - a legally acceptable document to establish a proof of age. His complaint is that his age records were never reconciled by different army branches. He claimed that the documents carrying the "wrong" date of birth should have been verified with the matriculation certificate because "there was a mistake" in the UPSC form.

General Singh will be represented by senior advocate U. U. Lalit.

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