Updated: March 6, 2015 4:58:03 am
In a far reaching decision, the Principal Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal has quashed the Army’s promotion policy for the rank of Colonel from January 2009 onwards after finding it to be violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.
The AFT passed the orders on March 2 acting on a petition filed by a group of officers who had been adversely affected by the changed policy, known as ‘command exit promotion policy’, and had alleged it to be arbitrary and highly skewed in favour of Infantry and Artillery as compared to other branches within Army.
The AFT bench comprising Justice Sunil Hali and Air Marshal JN Burma has also ordered that the Army should consider the case of the petitioners and all those persons for promotion who have been denied the same on the basis of changed policy and create supernumerary posts for the purpose of pay and allowances from the date they were eligible for promotion to the posts based on merit.
The bench ordered that their promotion shall be considered on pro rata basis which was the policy in force prior to January 21, 2009. The AFT bench also said that the persons who have been promoted on the basis of the policy of 2009 shall continue to remain on their posts. The bench has also turned down the application of the union government for leave to appeal before the Supreme Court against the AFT orders.
The Government had released 1484 vacancies of Colonels to be distributed in two phases called AVSC I (750 vacancies) and AVSC II (734 vacancies) in November 2008. The aim was to achieve a reduction in the age of Battalion and Brigade Commanders and cause an improvement in career aspirations of officers of the Armed Forces.
The vacancies in Phase I of AVSC were allocated between the various Corps of the Army on pro rata basis of corps strength of officer cadre and the Phase II vacancies were distributed on Command Exit Model.
The petitioners claimed in their petition that in 2009, during the second phase of AVSC, “the Army HQs led by some senior officers made certain arbitrary changes to unfairly apportion a major chunk of the 734 additional Colonel rank vacancies for the corps they belonged”. They averred in the petition that the change was aimed at controlling and regulating seniority of officers in such a manner that officers of certain corps were to be considered for promotion along with junior officers of the privileged corps.
The AFT noted that the proposal for change had initially been circulated among 16 senior most Lt Generals of the Army out of which as many as 12 Lt Generals expressed grave reservation towards changing the policy from pro rata basis to Command Exit Policy in 2009.
The bench also found that nothing was brought forth to show that the change in policy made at Army Headquarters level had the approval of the Ministry of Defence and if due consideration was given by the Ministry on the issues raised by the petitioners especially when 12 Lieutenant Generals, most of them Army Commanders, had raised serious apprehensions on the impact of the change in the policy which could have grave repercussions on the future of the functioning of the Indian Army.
The data put forth the bench showed that there was an increase of 77 per cent in vacancies of infantry and 53 per cent in the vacancies of Artillery after the change of policy while the other branches-Army Air Defence, Engineers, Signals, Army Ordnance Corps, Army Service Corps and Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineering suffered losses in vacancies.
The bench found that the petitioners, belonging to various ancillary services, whose quota was reduced, would be entitled to be considered for promotion, based on pro rata basis on the date they became eligible for the promotion.
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