India calls army chief's birthday row 'unfortunate'
India on Wednesday described as "unfortunate" a lawsuit filed by the chief of its army asking for his birthday to be changed, which would allow him to remain in office for an extra year.
The defence ministry broke its silence over the development, which has led to an embarrassing clash between the government and India's 1.13-million-strong military, the fourth largest in the world.
"It is an unfortunate development and it is not a healthy precedent either for the defence ministry or the armed forces," India's junior defence minister Pallam Raju told the CNN-IBN television channel.
"It is a very sensitive issue," Raju added.
General V.K. Singh on Monday petitioned the Supreme Court asking for his birthday to be changed on official records to prevent him being forced into retirement in May.
He has asked the Court to recognise what he says is his correct birthday as May 10, 1951, making him one year younger than the age shown on government records which state his date of birth as May 10, 1950.
Indian government employees must retire at 62.
The defence ministry has previously rejected Singh's claim twice, citing the date marked on his documents when he entered the army.
The government has indicated it will fight the legal case and has filed a submission to the Supreme Court asking it not to issue any ruling in the case without hearing its arguments.
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