After long winding journey multiple rounds of litigation, a Brigadier of the Army Aviation Corps who retired in 2002 has finally been promoted to the rank of Major General, albeit notionally.
The legal battles started for Maj Gen (then Brig) NJS Sidhu, a recipient of four decorations including Sena Medal for Gallantry, when despite creation of a vacancy of an Additional Director General (ADG) in the rank of Major General of the Army Aviation Corps in 1997, the Army took a stand that it was an “unspecified” vacancy and that it wanted to post an officer from some other branch as the head of Army Aviation by seeking to retire him as a Brigadier without considering him for promotion.
A division bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court comprising Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice SS Saron had however stuck down the action of the Army in 2002 and directed the Government to consider him for promotion. The Ministry of Defence (MoD), however, went into appeal and the Supreme Court granted a stay on the matter. Ultimately, even the SC by way of a detailed judgement upheld the HC decision by holding that chances of promotion of Aviation Corps officers had been marred by the Army.
After the directions of the SC, a promotion board was held but he was again declared “not approved” for promotion. The rejection was thereafter challenged in the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) wherein it was averred that being the only officer eligible for promotion with only one sole vacancy, the action of the Army’s promotion board was egotistical to defeat the fruits of success in long drawn litigation.
Passing a judgement on his plea, a bench of the AFT in Chandigarh comprising Justice Surinder Singh Thakur and Lt Gen DS Sidhu came down heavily upon the Army’s Military Secretary’s Branch for raising wrong contentions that the officer could not make it to the next rank because of ‘comparative batch merit’ when there was no such batch and the Petitioner was the sole candidate. The AFT recorded that “at the highest level ways and means were devised to conceal the truth” while adding that such acts shook judicial conscience and encouraged other instrumentalities to follow illegal pursuits. The AFT directed the Government to consider him afresh by holding a special board.
While complying with the directions of the AFT, the Ministry of Defence has finally promoted the officer to the rank of Major General, fourteen years after he retired. Sources say that the MoD took a strong view of the repeated injustice and agony caused to the highly decorated officer and has also released the costs awarded to him by AFT.