Coming down hard on former Army Chief Gen V K Singh for going out of his jurisdiction to favour the promotion of an army officer to the rank of Maj Gen,the Armed Forces Tribunal has said that he violated rules and bypassed the Central government to ensure that the officer made it to the merit list despite being undeserving.
In a strongly worded judgement in a case involving the promotion of Brig Ajay Singh Panwar,the principal bench of the tribunal has said not only did the former chief expunge certain remarks on the officers service record to favour him for the promotion but that the Brig was also given unwarranted marks in the selection board that was headed by Gen Singh. It also says that Brig Panwar was given favoured treatment from person who matters. Both Gen Singh and Brig Panwar belong to the Rajput Regiment. The case pertains to the promotion board of October 2011 for the rank of Major General in which 41 officers had been recommended for the next rank. Brig Panwars name was last on the list of those promoted but his appointment was held back by the Defence Ministry as it found glaring inaccuracies in the selection process.With the Defence Ministry holding back the promotion,Brig Panwar approached the tribunal for relief but his petition was dismissed this week by the bench of AFT chairperson Justice A K Mathur and Lt Gen S S Dhillon.
The judgement also has several critical remarks on the conduct of the then army chief in the promotion process,saying that Gen Singh illegally expunged certain remarks from the service record of the Brigadier in contravention of rules and against a previous order by the Central government,thus qualifying him for being on the promotion board. In the scheme of things in our country once an order is passed by the Central Govt, the Army Chief has no jurisdiction to sit over the matter and all that he could do is to forward the petition to the Central Government for reconsideration or review of the same. …therefore,the review order passed by the COAS is totally without jurisdiction. Therefore,the expunging of the so-called remark by COAS,sitting over the order of Ministry of Defence,is totally uncalled for and in the scheme of things he had no jurisdiction to do it, the tribunal has stated.
The tribunal has also taken on the point that after passing an illegal order to qualify the Brigadier for the next rank,the promotion board that too is headed by the Army Chief also gave him unwarranted high value judgement marks that obliterated some more deserving candidates.
In fact the first issue i.e. the entertaining of a second Statutory Complaint and reviewing the order of Ministry of Defence was totally unwarranted coupled with granting high value judgment marks was also not warranted by the Selection Board,these two things put together shows that he was given favoured treatment from person who matters. Judicial restraint will not permit us to say more,suffice it to say that the eight persons who got better quantified marks were sought to be ignored, the tribunal has noted.
The tribunal,which went through all the files of the promotion board,also pointed out that eight officers had been superseded just by giving Brig Panwar inordinately high value judgement marks. Value judgement marks constitute five percent of the total score of officers to be evaluated and are discretionary in nature,giving the board (headed by the Army Chief) the power to decide. We have gone through the entire records and examined the matter dispassionately. It is a case in which the petitioner stands to benefit because of one reason or the other and our judicial propriety does not permit us to say beyond this, the tribunal said,dismissing the petition of Brig Panwar for relief from the defence ministrys order that denied him the promotion.
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