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Vishnu Bhagwat is a former Chief of the Naval Staff of Indiamarker. He is the first and only chief of naval staff who was sacked while still serving. It was for the first time in the history of independent India that a service headquarter had refused to implement the order of an incumbent government.

The sack and after

Vishnu Bhagwat was appointed to chief of naval staff from 30 September 1996 and was sacked on 30 December 1998 under Article 310 of the Constitution of India. The unprecedented and much publicised row between the government and the admiral began after the Cabinet appointments committee appointed Vice-Admiral Harinder Singh as deputy chief of the naval staff. Refusing to accept the Cabinet order, Admiral Bhagwat went public with his opposition to the government's decision. The government said that a series of actions from Admiral Bhagwat "were in deliberate defiance of the government." The Supreme Court of Indiamarker later dismissed a petition by the sacked Navy chief challenging the Government’s decision to dismiss him from service and the punitive measure to strip him of the title of admiral.


He went to School at The Lawrence School Sanawar on a prestigious Govt. of India scholarship by talented children. He is extremely proud of his school. Vishnu Bhagwat was commissioned into the Indian Navy on 1 January 1960. A graduate of the National Defence Academy, he was awarded the Telescope for the Best All-Round Cadet on the training ship, INS Tir and the Sword of Honour for the Best All-Round Midshipman of the Fleet.

In his 36 years of service he had a vast and varied experience in combat operations, warship production, acquisition and acceptance, personnel management and command. He was actively associated with the 1961 Goamarker Liberation Operations. During the 1971 Indo–Pak war his ship was in the escort groups for missile boats responsible for humbling the adversary. A Specialist in Communication and Electronic Warfare, he was Flag Lt. to Chief of the Naval Staff in 1968–70 and Naval Assistant to Chief of the Naval Staff in 1986-87.

Vishnu Bhagwat completed his first major command in INS Amini with the Western Fleet before being assigned as the Fleet Operations Officer of the same Fleet (1978–79). He commissioned the third Rajput class guided missile destroyer (DDG), INS Ranjit in September 1983 and was in command for 2½ years during which the ship set new fleet standards/records in weapons, sensors and operations.

On promotion to the Flag rank in 1988 he served as additional DG Defence Planning Staff, Chief of Staff of Western Naval Command and commanded the Eastern Fleet. He was Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff for two years at the Naval Headquarters. Prior to taking over as the Chief of the Naval staff on 1 October 1996, he was Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Naval Command.

A Graduate of National Defence College, Bhagwat is a recipient of Ati Vishisht Seva Medal (AVSM) in 1986 and was conferred the Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM) on 26 January 1996.

Other controversies

In 2003, Bhagwat reportedly questioned installation of Veer Sarvarkar's portrait in the Central Hall of Parliament of India. This invited the ire of the Shiv Sena, a political party of India. [367024]

Further reading

  • "An Admiral's Fall" by Wilson John
  • "Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat Sacked or Sunk" by Brig R P Singh and Commodore Ranjit Rai.


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