India minister meets PM on army chief VK Singh's age

Gen VK Singh addresses journalists in Delhi on 15 January 2012
Image caption Gen Singh says the timing of his retirement relates to his "integrity and honour"

India's Defence Minister AK Antony has met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss the row over the real age of the army chief, General VK Singh.

Gen Singh has filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court asking for his birthday to be changed in official records.

Official records say he was born in 1950 and is due to retire in 2012. But Gen Singh says he was born in 1951 and is not due to retire until 2013.

The government also asked the court not to rule until its views were heard.

Gen Singh - a highly decorated soldier who became army chief in March 2010 - argues that the issue relates to his "integrity and honour".

It is the first time a serving chief of the Indian armed forces has petitioned the Supreme Court against the government.

The authorities are trying to find a way out of the unprecedented developments.

On Tuesday, the government asked Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma, who was touring Malaysia, to cut short his visit and return to Delhi.

In a petition filed in the court on Monday, Gen Singh submitted 20 documents out of which 19 show his birthday as 10 May 1951, a BBC correspondent in Delhi reports.

Gen Singh said he went to court "after exhausting all statutory options within the defence ministry".

In July 2011, the ministry fixed Gen Singh's date of birth as 10 May 1950 and his complaint against the order was rejected on 30 December 2011.

Opposition parties have criticised the government for its "failure" in handling the dispute over the general's age.

"This sensitive matter ought to have been handled properly by the government internally, to the satisfaction of all concerned, instead of allowing it to come in public domain and resultant court proceedings," said Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad.

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