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Army promotions: SC says value judgment can’t be sole basis for deciding selection

The policy followed for promotion to higher ranks in the Army from 1987 was revised in 2008 to introduce a quantification system to be followed by the selection boards.

Written by Man Aman Singh Chhina | Chandigarh | Published: February 14, 2020 12:59:54 pm
Army Promotions, Supreme Court, Supreme Court order over army promotions, punjab news, india news, indian express The Supreme Court of India. 

In a judgment having important ramifications for Army’s quantification method for promotion, the Supreme Court has ruled that an officer cannot be ignored for empanelment for higher rank only on the basis of the value judgment marks of selection board in spite of his securing high marks on the basis of other criteria.

A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Hemant Gupta on February 11 has ordered fresh promotion selection board to be held for two retired Brigadiers for the rank of Major General within six months.

Maximum five marks are allotted for value judgment in selection board for promotions in the Army. Amidst tough competition, it is often the allocation of these marks, which decides if an officer will make it to the next senior rank or not.

The bench has disagreed with government counsel’s contention that deference should be shown to selection board’s decision as it comprised senior Army officers.

“We disagree. Lord Acton said, ‘I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong’. If there is any presumption it is the other way against holders of power, increasing as the power increases. There is no presumption that a decision taken by persons occupying high posts is valid. All power vested in the authorities has to be discharged in accordance with the principles laid down by the Constitution and the other Statutes or Rules/Regulations governing the field,” the bench said.

It went on to say that the court is concerned with the legality and validity of the decision and the rank of the decision maker does not make any difference.

The orders came on a petition filed by Brig Nalin Kumar Bhatia of Military Intelligence Corps, who was not empanelled for selection to the rank of Major General on the basis of value judgment of the selection board, which comprises the Chief of Army Staff and Army Commanders of the seven commands. Another similarly placed Brigadier of Army Education Corps has also been given the same relief. Both officers were the only ones in their respective batches to be considered for promotion to Major General but despite getting high marks in other parameters they were not selected for promotion due to low value judgment marks.

The policy followed for promotion to higher ranks in the Army from 1987 was revised in 2008 to introduce a quantification system to be followed by the selection boards. The new policy governing promotions to higher ranks in the Army was issued in 2011 wherein primacy is given to the confidential reports (CRs).

“Primacy is given to the confidential reports as is clearly mentioned in the policy. There is nothing mentioned in the policy that an officer can be ignored for empanelment only on the basis of the value judgment in spite of his securing high marks on the basis of the other criteria. In the instant case, the appellant was the only eligible Brigadier of his batch for empanelment to the rank of Major General with a meritorious record of service. He could not have been deprived of his empanelment only on the basis of value judgment of the selection board,” the bench said in its order.

In the new policy, there was a change in allocation of marks for selection. Apart from two marks allotted for various professional courses done and two for honours and awards (gallantry), 19 marks are allotted for performance as Colonel, eight for staff/Instructional appointments as Colonels, 46 for Brigadier, and 18 for staff/Instructional appointments as Brigadier.

These allocation of marks would be included in the quantifiable total of 95, with five marks being allotted to value judgment. The guidelines issued for allotment of value judgment marks are on the basis of performance, potential, special achievements, honours and awards and recommendation for promotion.

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