Age cannot be fixed through a PIL, says Chief Justice
The HinduA file photo of Army chief General V.K. Singh. He has filed a petition before the Supreme Court seeking a direction to the government that his date of birth be treated as 10.5.1951 and not 1950.
The Supreme Court on Friday frowned on the Grenadiers' Association, Rohtak chapter, for filing a PIL seeking a declaration that Army Chief V.K. Singh's date of birth was May 10, 1951 as mentioned in his school leaving certificate.
Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia, heading a three-judge Bench, made it clear that the court would not go into the merits of the case. The Bench included Justice A.K. Patnaik and Justice Swatanter Kumar.
The CJI told petitioner's counsel Bhim Singh: “Show us the law under which we can do this. We will not go into the facts. The person, who has the right to approach, his case will stand on its own legs. We will be setting a bad precedent if we deal with this in a PIL.”
Justice Kapadia told Mr. Singh: “Tomorrow PILs will be filed asking us to determine the rights of other parties. All sorts of conflicts will arise. It will be chaotic. It will ultimately be a travesty of justice for that person [whose interests are adversely affected].”
However, Mr. Singh persisted with his arguments contending that public opinion and perception was involved in this case.
The CJI retorted and told counsel that the court was not concerned with public opinion. He said: “Argue in law where a personal cause of action is pending here, how can we fix the age of a person in a PIL. The individual [concerned] has filed a petition.”
Justice Kapadia also took exception to the petitioner annexing the opinions of four former CJIs of the Supreme Court in support of the Army Chief's case. “This is improper,” he said, directing the Registry henceforward not to list petitions which annexed such opinions.
Mr. Singh persisted in his arguments and said that the one million-strong ex-servicemen in the country were agitated by this issue. He said: “The whole nation is waiting for an answer.”
The CJI, however, told counsel: “We can understand if the person who is affected is here. We have to go by the law. The person affected has to come to court. Can we change the date of birth in a PIL filed by an Association?”
Justice Patnaik told counsel: “We cannot make a departure from the law. Newspaper headlines do not make a PIL.” Since it was a service matter, it could be agitated only by the affected party and not by a third party, Justice Patnaik added.
To that, Mr. Singh said: “The case concerns the whole country. Once the Ministry of Law has made a recommendation [accepting Gen. Singh's date of birth as May 10, 1951], how can the Ministry of Defence reject it?”
Justice Patnaik observed “superannuation” and “date of birth” were service matters. “If we do this, we will be setting a very bad precedent.” Mr. Singh countered saying; “Can Ministry of Defence change the opinion of the Law Ministry? There has been miscarriage of justice in this case.”
When the Bench showed disinclination to entertain the petition, Mr. Singh sought withdrawal of the petition, but the Bench dismissed it.