Updated: March 16, 2015 4:51:31 pm
Two weeks after the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) struck down the Army’s 2009 promotion policy for Colonels as violative of Article 14 of the Constitution, Army Headquarters is yet to come out with a plan to implement the judgment.
As reported by The Indian Express on Saturday, the Army has cancelled its ongoing boards for promotions from Lt Colonel to Colonel rank. It has been decided that no boards would be held until a “concrete” policy decision is taken in the matter.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar is learnt to have “seen” the AFT’s judgment and “given a thought” to its likely implications.
On March 2, the AFT upheld a petition filed by 30 Army officers against the 2009 policy based on the Command Exit Model, which gave infantry and artillery more Colonels than other arms and services.
The AFT had asked Army Headquarters to consider afresh the cases of all officers affected by the 2009 policy, and ordered the Army to distribute vacancies of Colonels in a pro rata manner, i.e., the number of Colonels in each arm and service should be proportional to the strength of Lt Colonels in each arm and service, the way it was done before 2009.
The AFT judgment necessitates the holding of fresh promotion boards for all officers who have been impacted by the 2009 policy. Army Headquarters will have to issue a fresh distribution of vacancies in various arms and services, and a fresh schedule of promotion boards to implement the AFT order.
The judgment has far-reaching consequences, as the number of Brigadiers, Major Generals and Lt Generals among various arms are decided on a pro rata basis from the number of Colonels held by each arm. Implementation of the AFT order, which will reduce the number of Colonels from the Infantry and Artillery, can subsequently reduce the number of Brigadiers, Major Generals and Lt Generals from these arms.
The AFT order also affects the current schedule of promotion boards where the number of Colonels to be promoted in each arm is decided by the 2009 Command Exit Policy. As reported by The Indian Express, the promotion board for Air Defence, Engineers, Signals, EME and ASC was scheduled to be held from March 10-14, but has not been held. No intimation of its postponement or cancellation has been received by the officers from the Military Secretary (MS) branch of Army Headquarters, which deals with the promotions and postings of Army officers.
The lack of clarity has given rise to concerns among the affected officers that the MS branch might be planning to approach the Supreme Court with a Special Leave Petition (SLP) against the AFT judgment. That is the only option available to the Army after the AFT turned down the application of the union government for leave to appeal before the Supreme Court against the order. Meenakshi Lekhi, counsel for petitioners, has filed a caveat in the Supreme Court on March 9 to ensure that the petitioners are heard if the government files an SLP.
Meanwhile, another group of Army officers affected by the 2009 policy, who were not part of the original group of petitioners, is planning to file a case in the Supreme Court on March 22. Following the AFT judgment, these officers feel it is important to become a party to the case in the Supreme Court.
The AFT judgment has led to a lot of discussion among officers of various arms and services over email and social media. Even on the veterans’ groups on the Internet, one section has argued for better promotion avenues for the infantry and artillery by implementing the 2009 policy, while the other section has argued that this cannot be done at the cost of creating a demotivated and fractured Army. Lt General (retd) Syed Ata Hasnain, former Military Secretary, has said on Facebook that the Command Exit Model policy of 2009 was never needed, and backed a return to the pro rata model for promotions.
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