The Union defence ministry has widened the scope of eligibility for the chief of defence staff post of the Indian Armed Forces, according to gazette notifications issued on Monday.

Now, any serving or retired lieutenant general, air marshal and vice admiral under the age of 62 years can be chosen for the top military post. Earlier, only chiefs of the Army, the Air Force and the Navy were eligible for the role.

The tenure of the service chiefs is three years or till they turn 62, whichever is earlier.

The chief of defence staff post has been lying vacant since Bipin Rawat died in a plane crash on December 8 in Tamil Nadu. Thirteen others, including his wife Madhulika Rawat, had also died in the crash.

The change in eligibility for the role was brought in by the government through amendments to the Air Force Act, the Army Act and the Navy Act.

The notifications also said that the government may extend the tenure of the chief of defence staff if necessary till the maximum age of 65 years.

The Cabinet Committee on Security had approved the creation of the post of a chief of defence staff on December 24, 2019. General Bipin Rawat was appointed as the country’s first chief of defence staff the following week, a day before he retired as the Army chief.

A chief of defence staff ranks higher than the three service chiefs. The person functions as a single point of contact for the three branches of the Indian Armed Forces and is the military advisor to the Indian government.

The chief of defence staff heads the Department of Military Affairs. However, he cannot exercise any military command over the three service chiefs.