New Delhi: The central government in the next three weeks will have to explain to the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) why Indian Navy Vice Admiral Bimal Verma's name was dropped and Vice Admiral Karambir Singh was chosen as the next Chief of Navy. The direction by Armed Forces Tribunal to the central government came after the petition was filed by Vice-Admiral Bimal Verma challenging the appointment of his junior.

The lawyers representing Verma, Ankur Chhibber and Verma's daughter Rhea Verma said, "The court took the matter today and directed the government to submit its reply in three weeks’ time. The Government has told the court that it will reply in four weeks regarding the appeal filed on April 23, seeking to stay the government order of March 23 to appoint Karambir Singh as the next Navy Chief instead of him."

Rhea said, "The Central Government has to positively decide on this complaint by May 15. The matter is now listed for May 20."

Vice Admiral Verma, commander-in-chief of the Andaman and Nicobar Command, approached the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) earlier on April 8, but withdrew his petition the next day after the tribunal told him to first exhaust "internal remedies". Vice Admiral Verma had again approached the AFT on Tuesday after the defence ministry did not respond to his statutory complaint.

The post of Navy Chief will get vacant on May 31 next owing to the retirement of Admiral Sunil Lanba who is superannuating after a three-year tenure. While Singh was commissioned into the Indian Navy in 1980, Verma was commissioned into the Navy in 1979. Admiral Verma is the brother of Admiral Nirmal Verma, former Chief of Naval Staff between 2009-12.

This is the second occasion when the Modi government has not appointed the senior most officers as service chiefs. Earlier the government has overlooked seniority even in case of Army Chief General Bipin Rawat, who superseded two officers.

The Indian Navy had announced in March that Vice Admiral Karambir Singh will be its next chief. “The government of India appoints Vice Admiral Karambir Singh, Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM), Ati Vishisht Seva Medal (AVSM) as the next Chief of the Naval Staff. To assume charge on superannuation of Admiral Sunil Lanba on May 31,” the Ministry of Defence spokesperson said on March 23.

Singh will be the first helicopter pilot of the Indian Navy to hold the office of the Chief of Naval Staff. Vice Admiral Karambir Singh was commissioned in July 1980 into the Executive Branch of the Indian Navy. He has served as the Vice Chief of Naval Staff at Navy HQ in New Delhi before moving to Visakhapatnam in 2018 as the Flag Officer Commanding in Chief of Eastern Naval Command.

Vice Admiral Verma is in Delhi to attend the naval commanders' conference which was inaugurated by defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday.