The indiscriminate manner in which Value Judgement (VJ) marks are awarded in Army promotions has once again come to light, with an Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) judgement revealing that a Brigadier almost lost out on promotion to the rank of Major General after a selection board awarded him low VJ marks over allegations of domestic violence and extramarital affairs, which were later found to be false.
A maximum of five marks out of 100 are allotted for VJ in the selection board for promotions in the Army, while the remaining 95 are quantified through other parameters like courses attended etc. Amidst tough competition, it is often VJ marks which become the deciding factor.
The selection board in question was evaluating 24 Brigadiers for six vacancies in the rank of Major General in the Electronics and Mechanical Engineering (EME) corps in 2018. The board comprised the then Chief of Army Staff Bipin Rawat as chairman and Vice Chief of Army Staff and all General Officers Commanding-in-Chief as members.
During the course of discussion over each candidate, one board member mentioned the allegations of domestic violence and extra-marital affairs against a Brigadier by his wife.
The other members were swayed and awarded low VJ marks to the Brigadier, thus putting him out of contention. The move benefitted another Brigadier, who moved up one position and was hence recommended for promotion.
When the proceedings of the selection board were put up to the Ministry of Defence (MoD), this anomaly was noticed by officials. The ministry asked the Army headquarters to provide evidence of the allegations made against the officer and any action taken against him.
It was then revealed that no Court of Inquiry has been held against the Brigadier and that a pseudonymous complaint had been made against him with no evidence. It further came to light that the wife of the officer had also given a written statement that she had never filed a complaint against him. The MoD came to the conclusion that the pseudonymous complaint was made to negatively affect the chances of promotion of the officer by misleading the selection board. Consequently, despite the selection board not changing its recommendation, the MoD changed the result of the board — the Brigadier was approved for promotion and the officer who had jumped up one place was not approved.
The entire sequence of events came to light when the officer who missed out on promotion due to MoD changing the result of the selection board moved the AFT, demanding that he be promoted. The AFT’s principal bench in New Delhi upheld the decision of the MoD and dismissed the officer’s petition earlier this month.
In a judgment in February, the Supreme Court had ruled that an officer cannot be overlooked for empanelment for higher rank only on the basis of the VJ marks. A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Hemant Gupta on February 11 ordered a fresh promotion selection board to be held for two retired Brigadiers for the rank of Major General. The bench had disagreed with government counsel’s contention that deference should be shown to the selection board’s decision as it comprised senior Army officers.
Responding to The Indian Express report ‘Brigadier almost misses promotion over allegations later found false’ (October 26), Indian Army PRO Colonel Aman Anand has written saying it “gives out a one-sided story regarding the proceedings of a promotion board”.
The report, he said, “propagates the view that low Value Judgment marks given to the said Brigadier were due to remarks by a board member whose comments were adequate to sway the entire proceedings against him”.
“No mention is made of a letter detailing allegations by the wife of the Brigadier, which was later retracted through a second correspondence. The story refers to the retraction obliquely but is silent on the former. It is evident that the board took notice of the formal complaint lodged by the officer’s wife in the award of Value Judgment marks when the board was initially conducted. Accordingly, investigations on the moral conduct of the officer were also necessitated. However, based on a second communication by the officer’s wife, the said investigation were cancelled and consequently, the officer was empanelled for promotion,” Colonel Anand said.
He said the report “purports to portray the members of this promotion board, and by inference all promotion boards as an exclusive clique who do not follow any code of conduct or principles”.
The Indian Express replies:
The report is based on a judgment delivered by the chairperson of the Armed Forces Tribunal, Justice Rajendra Menon, and administrative member, Lt General Philip Campose, former Vice Chief of Army Staff. The correspondent has not made any view of his own, but has accurately reported the ruling.
On the low value judgement marks, the ruling clearly states, “This was because it was brought out by one member during consideration by the board members that there was an allegation of domestic violence and possible extra marital affairs made against the officer at agenda number 17 by his wife, which allegation was under investigation.”
The judgment states that no Court of Inquiry was held against the Brigadier, and that a pseudonymous complaint had been made with no evidence — this was what the report stated. The judgment also stated that the wife said she never made any complaint. The pseudonymous complaint/letter that the PRO referred to was rejected by the AFT itself.
The report, while accurately reporting the AFT ruling, referred to a Supreme Court judgment since it pertained to the award of value judgment marks.
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