The Army’s promotion policy for its seniormost ranks may come in for a overhaul with the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) holding that the government should review the ‘two-stream’ promotion policy for promotion of Major Generals to Lieutenant Generals and finding the policy to be in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution.
In a judgement delivered by Justive VK Shali and Lt Gen SK Singh of the Principal Bench New Delhi, the AFT has found that the present promotion policy denied Major Generals of the Staff stream a chance to be promoted as Lt Generals in the staff stream and thus creates a class within class.
Acting on a petition filed by Maj Gen KA Muthanna, the AFT has ordered that the review of the policy, which is in violation of the Constutional provisions, should be completed within four months with an aim to implement as expeditiously as possible and preferably before the next Special Selection Board for the ranki of Lt General due in October 2017.
The tribunal has also ordered that the applicant, who has since superannuated, will be given consideration in consonance with new policy, and if found fit, be given consequential benefits.
Maj Gen Muthanna, an infantry officer of the December 1978 batch had challened the Ministry of Defence (DoD) policy wherein Maj Generals who were promoted in the staff stream were not considered for promotion to Lt general in the staff stream while Maj Generals in other streams were considered for promotion.
As per the policy at present, when Brigadiers of the General Cadre (Infantry, Armoured Corps, Mechanised Infantry and selected officers from other arms such as Artillery, Engineers and Signals) are screened for promotion to the rank of Maj General, they are split into two streams based on merit. The top of the selected lot go into the ‘Command and Staff’ stream while the remaining selected lot goes into the ‘Staff Only’ stream. ‘Command and Staff’ stream implies that these Generals can hold both positions of command (of battle formations) and/or administrative staff positions.
‘Staff Only’ stream implies that these Generals cannot hold positions of command of battle formations but only staff positions (in various HQ) or command of administrative formations and training institutions. While Maj Generals of General Cadre (Command and Staff Stream) are screened for promotion to Lt Gen into ‘Command and Staff’ and ‘Staff Only‟ streams, the Maj Gens of General Cadre (Staff Only) Stream are not screened for promotion to Lt Gen, not even in ‘Staff Only’ stream of Lt General rank.
Another category of Maj Generals are those from Artillery, Engineers, Signals, EME, Ordnance, ASC.etc. who are classified under Non General Cadre which is called the supporting arms. Thus there are three category of Maj Gens: Maj Gen General Cadre (Command and Staff), Maj Gen General Cadre (Staff only) (and Maj Gen Non General Cadre
The union Government had informed the AFT that the ‘Two Stream’ system was discontinued in the year 1992, but was re-introduced in the year 2009 to cater for the implementation of AV Singh Committee (AVSC) – Part II recommendations. In the proposal for revival of the said ‘Two Stream’ policy, the Army had recommended that the officers approved and promoted to the rank of Maj Gen under ‘Staff Only’ stream should be made eligible for further promotion to the rank of Lt General under ‘Staff Only’ stream.
The Ministry of Defence however, disagreed with Army HQ‟s recommendations and stated that “making Maj Gen (Staff) who has not done any command appointment, eligible for promotion to the rank of Lt Gen will be a departure from the standard eligibility clause and would result in dilutions of the standards in Indian Army in the rank of Lt Gen”.
The AFT bench order nots that, “We strongly feel that re-introduction of ‘Two Stream Policy’ in 2009, after a gap of sixteen years, without taking into consideration the view of the Army who are the main stake holders and the fact of accrual of fifty five additional vacancies (from 39 to 94) in the rank of Lt Generals, and not opening the avenues for promotion to one category of Maj Generals, is beyond comprehension and appears arbitrary and devoid of logic”.