The Supreme Court Thursday urged the government and the armed forces to take all appropriate steps for ensuring timely promotions of high-ranking officials of the forces so as to prevent the “outrage” and “individual resentment”.
A Bench of Justices A K Patnaik and J S Khehar asserted that it was necessary for the armed forces and the government, which sits over some of the decisions relating to promotion through its Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC).
“It would be a sad day if the armed forces decline to give effect to the legitimate expectations of the highest ranked armed forces personnel. Especially when blame for delay in such consideration, rests squarely on the shoulders of the authorities themselves,” said the Bench.
This, the court pointed out, would lead to individual resentment, bitterness, displeasure and indignation. “This could also undoubtedly lead to, outrage at the highest level of the armed forces,” it said.
The Bench said the rules providing for extension would also take in its ambit the consideration of the promotional claim of the senior most eligible officer, who is on the verge of retirement. “Surely, extension of service, for the purpose granted to the appellant, would most definitely fall within the realm of Rule 16A of the Army Rules, unless of course, individual resentment, bitterness, displeasure and indignation, of army personnel at the highest level is of no concern to the authorities. Or alternatively, the authorities would like to risk outrage at the highest level, rather than doing justice to a deserving officer,” said the court.
The court’s observation came as it quashed a decision of the ACC that had rejected a recommendation by the Selection Borad to promote Maj Gen V M Singh to the rank of Lieutenant General.
Two days prior to Singh’s retirement, on February 27, 2008, a meeting of the Selection Board was convened and his name was cleared for promotion as Lieutenant General. Subsequently, the President granted Singh an extension of service up to June 2008 or till the approval of the ACC, whichever was earlier.
On June 2, 2008, the ACC issued a communication refusing Singh the promotion, contending he could not have been promoted under the existing rules since he was on extension.
The Bench censured the ACC for its “arbitrary” decision, noting that it did not give any reasons why Singh, despite being the senior-most eligible officer, could not be promoted. The court ordered promotion of Singh to the rank of Lieutenant General from the date of his eligibility.