Downplaying the controversy over army chief Gen V.K. Singh's age, Defence Minister A.K. Antony Tuesday said the issue should not be seen as a civil-military confrontation and the Supreme Court order on the issue should be awaited.
It was not the government but two branches of the army that had maintained two different dates of the army chief's birth for 36 years, the minister said.
"The long pending controversy will end after the Supreme Court order. I agree it is unfortunate. It's not a question of civil-military controversy. It happened unfortunately, maybe without any motive, but for 36 years the army maintained two dates of birth... that is why this controversy occurred," Antony said on the sidelines of an awards function.
"Two branches of army maintained two different dates of births and nobody noticed it for 36 years. For the first time in 2006 it came to notice and the then army chief took a decision and told the government. Again in 2008, the then army general gave another recommendation and government accepted it," he said.
Antony said the government only accepted what the then army chiefs recommend during different years and thought that the controversy was over and data amended accordingly.
"We thought it is over but again complaint came to the government last year. Then government took a decision referring it to law ministry and attorney general thrice … that is the only way government can function," he said.
Replying to the question on army chief approaching the apex court, Antony said: "The government's decision is not final and it is democracy and anybody can question government's decision and anybody can approach that the court."
"The issue has now gone beyond the government and whatever Supreme Court decides will be final. All should be mentally prepared to accept the decision," he added.
The age controversy stems from two sets of age records of Gen. Singh with the Adjutant General's and Military Secretary's branches of the Indian Army. While the Adjutant General's branch, the official record keeper and responsible for pay and pensions, has 1951 as the year of birth, the Military Secretary's branch, which deals with postings and promotions, has 1950 as his year of birth.