After-action reports, which are prepared during a military action “for future strategic studies”, are “not open to challenge in exercise of power of judicial review”, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday. It set aside an Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) order directing that “the facts should be correctly entered in the reports at the relevant places”.
The tribunal order had come on a plea by Vishisht Seva Medal winner Brigadier Devinder Singh, who took part in Operation Vijay which pushed back Pakistan-backed infiltrators from Kargil.
Hearing the appeal against the tribunal’s order of May 17, 2010, a bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Hemant Gupta said “the Tribunal or the Court is not the Authority to appreciate the historical facts as it is for the experts and Officers in the Armed Forces to record such facts in terms of the procedure established by them. This Court neither has the expertise nor has the jurisdiction to sit over the reports furnished by the Officers in respect of credit to the Officers involved in the Operation Vijay.”
Singh wanted the “Battle Performance Report, After-Action Report, Report of Army Headquarters Military Operations Directorate and Reports submitted by the High-Power Committee of the Government of India regarding Kargil War should be correctly recorded recognising his performance in Operation Vijay”.
These reports are prepared “during the action and after the War is completed for review and for further studies” at subsequent stages for strategic purposes. They are confidential.
After hearing him, the tribunal directed that suitable corrections be carried out in paragraph 192 of the After-Action Report.
The Union of India challenged this before the Supreme Court.
Deciding the case, the court said, “We find the issue raised is more to take credit by the Officers engaged in Operation Vijay. The reports do not have any civil consequences, therefore, is not subject to judicial review by the Tribunal or the Courts.”