The assembled guest and media at the commissioning of INS Sahyadri were surprised when the Defence Minister AK Antony during his address prominently acknowledged former Chief Of Naval Staff Admiral (Retd) Vishnu Bhagwat. Prior to that, Naval Officers rose to greet Adm Bhagwat as he walked towards VIP pavilion.
On 30th December, 1998, the then CNS Adm Bhagwat was unceremoniously sacked by the then Defence Minister George Fernandes, for reasonsnow already discussed to death by media. To quote an article by Cmde (retd) Ranjit B Rai and Cdr (Dr) Brij Dimri (Former Judge Advocate General of the Navy) “Bhagwat was served withdrawal of President’s Pleasure provided for in Articles 310/311 of the Constitution, incorporated in the Navy Act in section 15 and all his privileges , rank and pension were stripped after 40 years of meritorious service by a letter signed by an Additional Secretary Ghosh.”
The President’s Pleasure is a draconian relic of the British Empire incorporated in to Constitution of India. This was done on the insistence of first prime minister of independent India, Pandit JawaharLal Nehru, who was mortally scared of ‘Military Coups’. The law allows an officer of armed forces to be sacked without assigning a reason.
Later when media questioned Defence Minister AK Antony if Adm Bhagwat has been reinstated, he deflected the question by stating that this is the third time he is meeting Adm Bhagwat and the thing good about the Naval fraternity is that it remembers its retired colleagues.
As per Cmde Rai and CDR Dmiri, “Bhagwat with full pension and now rank stands re-instated.”
INS Sahyadri is the last of P-17 class ships. It will be followed by P-17A class. This class of ship was Admiral Bhagwat’s plan to transform India to a blue water builders navy. The acknowledgement of Admiral Bhagwat during the ship launch was a rich tribute.