New Delhi:  Defence Minister A K Antony on Tuesday put the blame for the controversy over the Army Chief's age squarely on the Army and Gen V K Singh fully agreed with him.
     
In his first detailed comments on the age row that is before the Supreme Court, Antony said the controversy erupted because the Army kept two sets of his date of birth for 36 years, maintaining there was no civil-military confrontation.

"For 36 years, two branches of the same institution maintained two dates of birth and that is why this controversy," he told reporters.

"It is unfortunate that it took years together but I don't agree with some of you that it is a civil-military controversy," Antony added.
    
He suggested that the government had no role to play in the whole issue as this discrepancy was first noticed in 2006 by the Army headquarters and reconciled at that level then and later in 2008 by two respective chiefs.
     
Gen Singh said the Defence Minister was "right" in noting that the Army was responsible for the controversy over his age issue.
     
"Absolutely, it is within the Army. After 36 years, you suddenly decide to come up with an issue. There is something wrong with it," the Army Chief told reporters.

Singh made this remark when asked to comment on Antony's statement and if the 'original sin' on the issue was committed within the force.

"Yes, it is a problem in the Army... he is right. There is no doubt about that," he added.

He also rejected suggestions that there has been a delay on part of Army to respond to Defence Ministry's latest letter on his age issue, saying everything does not happen "with the press of a button".

Gen Singh said steps have been taken to ensure that a controversy like the age row never recurs in future.

"Problems should have been sorted out. There was a problem of coordination between the two branches. I had said earlier also that steps have been taken to ensure that such things will never recur in future," he added.

The branch which dealt with the service records in the Ministry has been given full authority in these matters, he said.

On the issue of the letter by Defence Ministry, he said, "There is no rift (with Defence Ministry)... There is a normal procedure. Letter is sent and it is studied. Everything takes its time. It is not that letter comes and with the press of a button everything is done."

Gen Singh was asked why the Adjutant General's (AG) branch of the Army was yet to respond to the January 23 letter of the Defence Ministry, directing it to change the date of birth record from May 10, 1951 to May 10, 1950.

"We should not see that it happened early or late. I think there is no other point of view in this matter," the Army Chief said.

The AG's branch, which is the official record keeper in the service, has maintained Gen Singh's date of birth as May 10, 1951, although the Military Secretary's branch records it as May 10, 1950.

Gen Singh has been maintaining that his actual date of birth is May 10, 1951 and has filed a petition in the Supreme Court to seek a direction on this issue.

When asked about the particular letter, Antony said "it was part of the ongoing process and there was nothing unusual about it."

Antony said from 2006 to 2009, the Army Headquarters (AHQ) handled and reconciled the age issue at their level and the government accepted their recommendations and had no role to play in it.

(Agencies)