Any serving or retired Lt General, Air Marshal and Vice Admiral under the age of 62 years will be eligible for appointment to the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) with the government effecting changes to the rules to widen the selection pool for the position.
The three-star officers are now eligible to become the CDS along with serving chiefs of the three services, according to the changes made to the Army, Air Force and Navy Acts.
The post of Chief of Defence Staff has been lying vacant since the death of Gen Bipin Rawat in a helicopter crash on December 8 last year.
The changes made to the rules are seen as the government beginning the process to appoint the next Chief of Defence Staff amid the country facing myriad national security challenges.
The government issued separate gazette notifications on Monday bringing the changes to the Air Force Act, the Army Act and the Navy Act providing for making any serving or retired Lt General, Air Marshal or Vice Admiral eligible to be appointed as the CDS.
“The Central Government may, if considered necessary, in the public interest, so to do, appoint as Chief of Defence Staff, an officer who is serving as Air Marshal or Air Chief Marshal or an officer who has retired in the rank of Air Marshal or Air Chief Marshal but has not attained the age of 62 years on the date of his appointment,” the notification issued under the Air Force Act 1950 said.
It further said that the government may extend the service of the Chief of Defence Staff for such a period as it may deem necessary subject to a maximum age of 65 years.
Identical notifications were issued under the Army Act 1950 and the Navy Act 1957.
The tenure of three service chiefs is three years of service or when they turn 62, whichever is earlier.
In effect, the recently retired Chiefs of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force are unlikely to be considered for the post of the CDS as the age to become eligible for the post has been put at 62 years.
The changes will allow recently retired former commander-in-chief rank officers as contenders as their retirement age is 60.
It is learnt that a number of recently retired Army officers could be in contention in the race for the CDS.
On January 1 2020, Gen Rawat took charge as India’s first CDS with a mandate to bring convergence in the functioning of the Army, the Navy and the Indian Air Force and bolster the country’s overall military prowess.
Another key mandate of the CDS was to facilitate the restructuring of military commands for optimal utilisation of resources by bringing about jointness in operations, including through the establishment of theatre commands.
A high-level committee set up to examine the gaps in India’s security system in the wake of the Kargil war in 1999 had recommended the appointment of the CDS as a single-point military adviser to the defence minister.