The Delhi High Court Tuesday asked the Army’s Colonel couple who had challenged their postings to two different locations to move to their newly assigned posts within 15 days.
A bench of Justices Rajiv Sahai Endlaw and Asha Menon issued the direction while disposing of the plea by Colonel Amit Kumar who had challenged his posting to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands from Jodhpur in Rajasthan on the ground that his wife, set to be promoted as Colonel, was being sent to Bathinda in Punjab. Kumar is an officer in Judge Advocate General (JAG) department of the Army.
The bench said the Army has given reasons in its order rejecting Kumar’s request/representation for a spouse coordinated posting and no ground of mala fide or violation of any rule has been made out for the court to interfere in the matter.
“It is clear from the order (of the Army) that all aspects as required to be considered have been considered,” it added.
The bench on September 15 had asked the Army to consider the plea as representation and take a decision on the request of the couple for a joint posting within four weeks.
The high court had also put on hold the postings of the two officers till the next date of hearing on October 20. The Military Secretary Branch of the Army, subsequently, passed an order on September 30 rejecting the request citing “operational situation along the borders”, “organizational interest” and paucity of such senior officers in the JAG department.
The stand of the Military Secretary Branch was opposed by the two senior officers whose counsel had claimed that the department was trying to “misguide” the court by using terms like ‘border situation’ and ‘organizational interest’ as “smokescreen”.
During the hearing on Tuesday, the bench at the outset expressed displeasure over alleged leak of information to the media regarding the two officers’ grievances and said “you can either go to the media or come to the court”.
The bench said that the news reports while highlighting the needs of the two officers has also “painted the Army as insensitive”.
“We do not appreciate said conduct of the petitioner that while matter in pending in court, he is approaching the media,” it added.
Kumar said in his defence that he has not leaked any details to the media nor given any interviews. Senior advocate Rana Mukherjee, appearing for Kumar, told the bench that the Army’s September 30 order does not take into consideration the policy that children should not be separated from their parents and added that the promotion of the petitioner’s wife to the rank of Colonel has also been kept on hold.
Rana also urged the bench to clarify that relief sought in the petition, filed through advocate Sunil J Mathews, with regard to formulation of a spouse coordinated posting policy has not been dealt with. The bench, thereafter, clarified that the policy formulation issue has not been dealt with in the present matter and whenever it is raised in some other plea it be decided in accordance with law.
Informing the court about its decision of September 30, the Army, had said that the two senior officers can only be posted together in New Delhi but it cannot be done as the JAG department presently only has 23 Colonels as against an authorized strength of 40 and static headquarters (HQs), like New Delhi, are at lower priority than field formations when postings are being considered.
It had said that posting the couple at New Delhi “will be at the cost of maintaining voids at formation HQs, which is not in organizational interest”.
In its reply, the Army, had also said that since the couple’s marriage in 2008, they have been given three spouse coordinated postings on their requests and “all out efforts were made to post both of them in the same station”.
His petition had alleged that the decision to transfer him and his wife to far off locations has been taken as he had filed a statutory complaint against the JAG, Indian Army as well as Deputy JAG, Headquarters Southern Command, Pune. He had contended that the two senior officers allegedly influenced the said posting orders.
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