The Armed Forces Tribunal in Delhi on Thursday gave the defence ministry three weeks to decide on a petition filed by Vice Admiral Bimal Verma who challenged the appointment of Vice Admiral Karambir Singh as the next Navy chief overlooking the seniority order, PTI reported.

Verma, who is the senior-most naval commander, had moved the tribunal on Tuesday after the defence ministry did not respond to his statutory complaint. He had first approached the tribunal on April 8 but withdrew his petition after the tribunal asked him to first explore “internal remedies”.

The government had appointed Singh, who is the flag officer commander-in-chief of Eastern Naval Command, the chief of the naval staff on March 23. He will take over as Navy chief on May 31 when the present chief, Admiral Sunil Lanba, retires.

Verma challenged the appointment asking why he was overlooked for the top post despite being the senior-most officer in the line of command and called the appointment wrongful. The government made the selection following a merit-based approach and did not go with the tradition of appointing the senior-most eligible officer to the post, according to PTI.

“The AFT [Armed Forces Tribunal] has directed the government to dispose of Vice Admiral Verma’s petition by May 15 and fixed May 20 as the next date of hearing in the case,” Verma’s lawyer Ankur Chhibber said. The lawyer said the government had sought four weeks’ time.

Chhibber said Verma had filed a statutory complaint with the defence ministry on April 10, asking for a response within 10 days. “Since the 10 days came to an end two days back, we filed the petition which was taken up by the court today [Thursday],” Chhibber said, according to ANI.

In 2016, while appointing the Army chief, the government did not follow the tradition of going by seniority. Bipin Rawat was appointed Army chief superseding then Eastern Command Chief Lieutenant General Praveen Bakshi and Southern Command Chief PM Hariz.

Singh will be the first helicopter pilot to become chief of naval staff.