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Sunday, June 26, 2022

SC clears Brig’s promotion to Major General

The Military Secretary had objected to Brig Iqbal’s downgraded medical category due to hypertension as a result of which he had not been promoted despite having been cleared for the higher rank of Major General.

Written by Man Aman Singh Chhina | Chandigarh |
Updated: May 19, 2022 10:26:02 am
The SC order states, “The role of the Military Secretary is only to bring to the notice of the Chief of the Army Staff if the officer concerned has been graded against the guidelines in the board grading.” (File)

The Supreme Court has ruled in favour of a Brigadier who had been denied promotion to the rank of Major General due to last minute intervention by the Military Secretary’s Branch of Army HQs, despite having been approved for promotion by the selection board and the Chief of Defence Staff/Secretary Department of Military Affairs having cleared his name.

A SC bench of Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice AS Bopanna, in the judgment dated May 17, have found that the Military Secretary’s objection to the name of Brigadier Javed Iqbal of Judge Advocate General’s branch (JAG) being approved for Major General’s rank after the selection procedure had concluded was incorrect and beyond the role of the Military Secretary.

The Military Secretary had objected to Brig Iqbal’s downgraded medical category due to hypertension as a result of which he had not been promoted despite having been cleared for the higher rank of Major General. The officer approached the AFT, which ruled in its favour but the government filed an appeal in the apex court, which has been dismissed.

The SC order states, “The role of the Military Secretary is only to bring to the notice of the Chief of the Army Staff if the officer concerned has been graded against the guidelines in the board grading.”

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The order states that “even if the primary aspect of the officer being classified as SHAPE2 medical category as on the date of consideration by the No.1 Selection Board and as on the date of declassification of the result in May 2021 to which detailed reference as made by the ASG is taken note of, as rightly observed by the AFT the medical records were available before the No.1 Selection Board and a conscious decision was taken to recommend for promotion”.

“As noted, the guidelines provide for the Selection Board to take note of the medical classification of the officer. That apart, for an objective selection, the guideline requires the Selection Board to keep in view the employability of the officer in the next higher rank. In a matter of the present nature where the selection was being made to a high rank from that of Brigadier to Major General and that too in JAG branch, the employability of such officer and the nature of duties was also to be kept in view. In the instant case, the only disability of the officer concerned while in SHAPE2 also is with regard to the risk in high altitude service and the No.1 Selection Board has kept in view the normal nature of work to be performed as JAG (Litigation).

In that view, the No.1 Selection Board should be credited of having applied its mind before recommending the case of the respondent. Further, after clearance by the No.1 Selection Board, the Chief of Defence Staff had on 12.02.2021 taken note of the medical status of the respondent and had approved the recommendation. When officers of such high rank have applied their mind in the instant case and approved the case of respondent for promotion the repeated objection by the Military Secretary is not justified,” the order adds.

Brig Iqbal is an officer of the 1989 Batch and is presently serving as Brigadier in the Judge Advocate General (for short, ‘JAG’) branch of the Military. He has put in 33 years of service. He is presently designated as the Deputy Judge Advocate General. The rank of Major General in the JAG Branch had fallen vacant on 01.12.2020. The No.1 Selection Board comprising of (i) Chief of the Army Staff, (ii) Vice Chief of the Army Staff (iii) 06 Army Commanders and (iv) the Military Secretary, on consideration in its meeting on 26.10.2020 recommended the Brigadier for promotion.

It was the case of Brig Iqbal that after clearance by the Selection Board the Chief of Defence Staff secured all information relating to the respondent, including that he had scored 94.482 marks which was the highest. With regard to the query relating to the medical status of the respondent, it was intimated to the Chief of Defence Staff that the re­categorisation Medical Board on 12.02.2021 had indicated that medical status is the same as was in the previous pre­categorisation Medical Board proceedings held on 14.08.2018. The respondent at that stage had been classified as SHAPE2 COPE2.

The Chief of the Defence Staff was also informed that the respondent despite such classification continues to perform the duties of Deputy JAG of the entire command which involves heavy workload. The Chief of Defence Staff on considering all aspects, including the medical condition, cleared the respondent for promotion as the medical condition indicated would not be a hurdle. Pursuant thereto the competent authority also granted its approval for promotion

He also contended before the court that the Central Government had also cleared his name but at that stage, the Military Secretary who has no such power, had introduced the rider interfering his promotion.

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