New Delhi: Commander-in-Chief of Andaman and Nicobar Command Vice Admiral Bimal Verma Tuesday withdrew his petition filed before the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), challenging the appointment of his junior as the next Navy chief. Verma will now approach the Ministry of Defence (MoD) against the appointment.
The government had last month named Vice Admiral Karambir Singh as the next chief of the Naval staff, succeeding Admiral Sunil Lanba who retires on 30 May.
Vice Admiral Verma withdrew the petition he had filed Monday after the AFT asked him to first lodge a statutory complaint with the ministry. An AFT bench questioned Verma’s move to approach them before exhausting other legal procedures laid down under the Navy Act.
Representing the Vice Admiral, his lawyers, Rhea Verma, who is also his daughter, and Ankur Chibber, argued that they came directly to the AFT because the statutory complaint will go to the defence minister (Nirmala Sitharaman) and she did not have the powers to undo a decision taken by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet.
“The court is of the view that the statutory complaint should be filed first. Rather than getting into a quarrel or debate over this, we have withdrawn the application and if the MoD does not take a decision within a specific time frame, let us say 15 days, we will approach the AFT again,” Chibber told ThePrint.
Govt ignored seniority
The government had selected the next navy chief following a merit-based approach and did not go with the tradition of appointing the senior-most eligible officer to the post.
Vice Admiral Verma is senior to Vice Admiral Singh and was among the contenders for the top post.
The other contenders included Vice Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral G. Ashok Kumar, Flag Officer Commanding in Chief (FOC-in-C) of Western Naval Command Vice Admiral Ajit Kumar and FOC-in-C of Southern Naval Command Vice Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla, a source said.
Verma was under scrutiny for Navy War Room leak case
Vice Admiral Singh’s elevation was expected as a number of factors had worked against Vice Admiral Verma.
Vice Admiral Verma had been overlooked for two key postings earlier — the chief of the Western and Eastern Naval Command. These posting are considered mandatory for any Navy chief. He took over the command of the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC), a tri-service command, in 2016 and has remained there since.
He was under scrutiny for the 2005 Navy War Room leak scandal. Vice Admiral Verma, who was the principal director of naval operations when the scandal broke out, managed to get away with only a “severe displeasure” note from the then vice chief.
According to Navy rules, the displeasure note by the vice chief is not included in the Annual Confidential Report (ACR).
Vice Admiral Verma’s second-in-command, Captain Kashyap Kumar, and two other commanders — V.K. Jha and Vijendra Rana — were dismissed under Article 311 in connection with the case.
Vice Admiral Verma is the brother of former Navy chief Nirmal Kumar Verma, who was at the helm of affairs between 31 August 2009 and 31 August 2012.
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