A panel on military reforms has recommended to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to review the current policy of appointing Army Commanders (GOC-in-C) and Corps Commanders on the basis of their ‘residual service’ in the Army which depends more upon the matter of chance and “fortuitous condition of the date of birth” instead of merit and capability.
The panel has asked the government to consider the feasibility of examining the issue in depth where a deserving officer misses the chance to command a Corps or an become the GOC-in-C of a command just because he falls short of the number of years of service that is left with him before retirement.
The panel has demanded an examination of the merits and demerits of continuing with the system where three years residual service before retirement is a must for the command of a ‘Corps’ and two years for a being appointed GOC-in-C of a ‘Command’.
The panel observed that litigation is pending before various benches of the Armed Forces Tribunal related to the non-grant of promotion/pay benefits to senior officers of the Army due to lack of residual service as per rules in vogue.
There is also non-functional upgradation to the apex scale of Rs 80,000 available to those who are not promoted due to lack of residual service as a result of which many senior Generals are getting a pay lower than their juniors though their appointments may be interchangeable, the panel observed.
The anomaly is a fallout of the residual service system. The said problem does not affect the Navy and the Air Force since they do not have a formation equivalent to a Corps and even the residual service prescribed for C-in-C level is one year unlike three years and two years for Corps Commander and Army Commander respectively in the Army. It has been averred that the concept of “residual service” makes the entire promotional or pay progression system fortuitous and chance-based depending upon a person’s date of birth,” the report says.
The panel has also said that to add to the problem, there is discretion of a waiver with the government which can make the concept even more arbitrary in an already fortuitous system since the policy states that ‘priority’ would be granted to those with residual service and does not make the criterion totally stringent.
“When we give deep thought to the issue, we find that in today’s time and age, it may not make perfect sense to persist with a system wherein say, an officer with a very high merit is unable to make it to a higher rank or appointment since he falls short of the criterion by one day and the other who is much lower in comparable merit makes it since he is above the criterion by one day, and to top it all, as mentioned above, the government can grant a waiver at its discretion in the said criterion,” the report states.
The panel said that the reason of ‘stability’ in support of this concept can hardly be considered valid in view of the fact that there is the stipulation of just one year in the other two services and that too only for C-in-C level. It also adds that with changing times, the stability or continuity plank may not be hold much water since over the years there is a heavy rotation of officers on appointments which may even be non-operational in nature (such as in HQ Integrated Defence Staff and Army Training Command or ARTRAC)
We feel that there must be a scientific analysis of the current system and a study to examine the desirability to continue with the same or not since prima facie it places merit or capability on a backburner while giving fillip to the fortuitous condition of the date of birth alone or factors associated with mere chance and discretion.
It goes without saying that in case any change is finally envisaged, it must be implemented prospectively and that too only for the future after a sufficiently long time-lag so as not to affect or cause any heartburn in the higher brackets when the change, if any, is finally implemented,” the report says in conclusion.