In a verdict, which meets the long-standing demand of thousands of defence services officers, the principal bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) in New Delhi has allowed a petition demanding Non-Functional Upgradation (NFU) for defence officers on the pattern of civil services officers of Group ‘A’ services. The bench comprising the officiating chairperson of the AFT, Justic BP Katakey and Lt Gen Sanjiv Langer today delivered the judgement on the petition which had been reserved some weeks back. Col Mukul Dev of the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Branch was the principal petitioner in the case which also has around 500 serving Army officers as co-petitioners.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Col Rajiv Manglik (retd) advocate for the petitioners said, “NFU been allowed as given to defence officers on the pattern of civilian officers as given by the 6th Pay Commission and it will be applicable for all three services-Army, Navy and the Air Force. It has also been stated if NFU is implemented for civilians in 7th Pay Commission it will be given to armed forces officers also. The advocate also said that the bench has allowed arrears for NFU for a period not exceeding three years from the date of the judgement. “The AFT has also denied the leave to appeal in the Supreme Court to the respondents ie. the Union of India,” said Col Manglik.
The petitioner had contended that the morale of officers of the armed forces has been lowered by the government by non-grant of the NFU and thus lowering the established status of the armed forces officers since independence. He had also argued that the stagnation in the armed forces is more acute than the civil services and that the denial is in clear violation of Article 14 and 16 of the Constitution “as the equals since independence have been made unequals”.
It was also argued that the purpose of grant of NFU is not to equate the monetary benefits or earnings enjoyed by a particular service, but it is granted with the aim to remove the stagnation due to the acute shortage of vacancies and grant parity of promotional avenues within the IAS with stipulated lead of two years to the IAS.
The petitioner had said that the parity established since independence and upheld by the pay commissions in succession between the armed forces and the All India Services/ Group ‘A’ services and IPS in particular has been disturbed and the petitioner has been deprived of the benefits extended to his counter parts in parity in the civil services.
It had been contended that the armed forces officers cadre meets all the attributes attached to the Group ‘A’ organised service. The petition says that the NFU has been denied on the pretext that Military Service Pay (MSP) has been given to armed forces officers. Citing this as a “gross mis-concept” the petition said that the grant of NFU is to alleviate the acute stagnation in service, whereas the MSP and other allowances is due to the postings at various difficult terrain and living conditions.
It was also pointed out that there are a number of Group ‘A’ services, which do not meet all the criteria for the group, yet they have been awarded NFU. The services mentioned are Indian Legal Service and Indian Trade Service, Indian Statistical service, Indian Economic service and Central Information service.
What is NFU?
Non Functional Upgrade (NFU) entitles an IAS officer and other Group ‘A’ services officers of the civil services to get the pay scale of the highest promoted officer of their batch even if he or she is not promoted to the same rank. This higher grade is given two years after the batchmate achieves the promotion. The aim of giving NFU is to alleviate the stagnation in the service due to non-promotion. Due to the steep pyramid of promotion in armed forces hierarchy, a large number of officers do not make it to the next selection rank. However, NFU has not been made applicable to armed forces. The Delhi High Court in its recent judgement has held that NFU is also applicable to officers of the central paramilitary forces.