In a hard hitting order, the Armed Forces Tribunal’s Lucknow bench has dismissed a petition by a Lt General of the Army Ordnance Corps, who had earlier been ordered to be reverted to the rank of Brigadier, and has imposed a cost of Rs 5 lakhs on him and Rs. 50 lakhs on the Defence Secretary, Chief of Army Staff and Military Secretary.
The AFT has stated that this amount shall be deposited with the Registrar of the Tribunal within two months which shall be remitted to the Army Central Welfare Fund for the welfare of Army personnel.
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The AFT order, given by Justice DP Singh and Air Marshal Anil Chopra on Friday, states, “The cost shall be recoverable after due enquiry from the salary/pension of the persons who are held accountable for entire episode keeping in view of the observations made in the body of the order. It is directed that a copy of the order be sent to the office of Prime Minister, Office of the Defence Minister and also to the Defence Secretary expeditiously, say, within 3 days for being placed before them for perusal and consequential action in terms of observation made in the body of the judgment, being sensitive question relating to Army”.
Lt Gen NK Mehta, Commandant College of Material Management, Jabalpur, had earlier been ordered to be reverted to the rank of Brigadier after the AFT found that he could not have even been promoted to the rank of Major General. The General had then approached the Supreme Court which had stayed the implementation of the AFT order but asked the tribunal to dispose of his application challenging certain aspects related to his promotion.
Punching holes in the Army’s promotion procedures, the AFT bench said, “We are constrained to observe that selection and appointment to the higher post in pyramidal structure of the Army should not be made betting in race course against the tradition and advice of Army by ignoring relevant provisions or keeping silent to the malpractices in the matter of promotion and appointment to the higher post”.
The order goes on to say that it is such type of incidents and lack of probity in the system which paves way for sleeper cells of the foreign countries to be activated to enter and manage the defence purchases and derive benefits of kick-backs. “The Ordnance Corps requires officers of highest integrity interspersed with morality in life and firmness of decision padded out with the flavour of patriotism,” it says.
The bench noted that promotions are not only matter of higher perks and salary but it is a matter of craze amongst the youth to serve the nation with stars. It confers honour on the officers and gives a chance to work hard to achieve with their full might. “It is relevant to bring on record that in Kargil War broadly, it were the officers who at the cost of their lives, saved the honour of the country when the whole nation was awe-struck and reeling under deep mental pain and agony. The officers, who are sacrificing their lives for the honour of the Nation, in case not given their due right with regard to their promotional avenues, it shall have a demoralising effect on them and the backbone of Indian Army shall lose its spine,” the bench said.
The order adds that the country is facing number of scams in defence procurement which deal purchase of items and with this view in mind, special care should be taken for selecting and appointing officers and staff in the Ordnance corps. The bench has suggested that all decisions taken by the selection board should be screened by a committee consisting of persons/experts in law with impeccable character.