The government has formally amended the rulebook to make retired officers of the rank of Lt Gen or General eligible to be appointed as the next Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), with an announcement for the top post likely to be made shortly.

According to new gazette notifications for the three armed forces, any Lt Gen or Gen equivalent officer (retired or serving) below the age of 62 can now be appointed as the CDS, which technically makes scores of officers eligible for the top post.

As reported by ET, the government is examining records of close to 30 serving and retired officers as it moves towards appointing the next CDS, with fitness levels and medical history being a key-criteria in finalising the name. The post of CDS has been lying vacant since the untimely demise of Gen Bipin Rawat in a helicopter crash last December.

“The Central government may, if considered necessary in public interest, so to do, appoint as Chief of Defence Staff, an officer who is serving as Lt General or General or an officer who has retired in the rank of Lt General or General but has not attained the age of sixty-two years on the date of appointment,” the gazette notification for the Army says.

Similar notifications have been published for the Air Force and Navy as well. The notification also specifies that the service of the Chief of Defence Staff can be extended to the maximum age of 65 years. The age limit for the appointment of CDS could rule out all former Chiefs of Service as they have crossed 62 years as of date.

As reported by ET, the list of officers whose details are being examined by the government include the five senior-most officers of the three forces. This would be the three serving Chiefs of service from the Army, Air Force and Navy, besides 12 serving officers of the Commander-in-Chief rank. In addition, the government had also sought records of all officers of the rank of Commander-in-Chief who have retired from service in the past two years.

The position of Chief of Defence Staff was created by the government in 2019, to meet a long standing recommendation of the Kargil review committee report for single point military advice to the leadership. The biggest task entrusted to Gen Rawat was to reorganise the armed forces into integrated military commands, each of which would be tasked to a particular territory and would pool resources of the three armed forces.

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