New Delhi, May 12 (PTI): The Defence Ministry on Monday decided to go ahead with the process of appointing the next Army Chief, recommending the name of Vice-Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag to the Cabinet.
The ministry sent its recommendation to the Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC) shortly after receiving the go-ahead from the Election Commission, to which the matter had been referred in view of the Model Code of Conduct, highly placed sources told PTI.
The sources said the recommendation had only the name of Lt Gen Suhag, 59, who is the seniormost among the Lt Generals.
The ACC, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, will take a call on the recommendation.
Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh will retire on July 31. The government usually announces the name of a new chief two months before the term of the incumbent is to end.
The appointment of the next Army Chief had got mired in a controversy as the Bharatiya Janata Party is strictly opposing it, questioning the ”hurry” and insisting that the matter be left to the next government as there is still time left.
Earlier in the day, the EC sent a communication to the defence ministry giving the go-ahead.
The EC cited its March 27 order which makes it clear that appointments, promotions, tenders and procurements of defence forces are not covered under the Model Code of Conduct in the ongoing elections as well as any other election in the future, sources said.
The EC, responding to a reference made by the Defence Ministry, said if the government wants, it can proceed with the process to appoint the next Chief of Army Staff, the sources added.
The appointment of the incumbent, Chief Gen Singh, was done three months prior to the retirement of his predecessor Gen V K Singh, who had a turbulent relationship with the defence ministry and even dragged the government to the Supreme Court over a controversy relating to his age.
Gen V.K. Singh, during the last days of his tenure as Army Chief, had put a 'discipline and vigilance ban' on Lt Gen Dalbir Suhag, then 3 Corps Commander, for a “failure of command and control” as an intelligence unit under him had allegedly carried out dacoity in Jorhat in Assam outside the jurisdiction of the Corps.
The ban was lifted soon after Gen Bikram Singh took over as Army Chief. Gen Singh then appointed Suhag as the Eastern Army Commander.