Fast track promotions for Army officers in combat roles may hit SC roadblock
A Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed by the Army against an Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) order that promotions of about 191 be reviewed and all promotion boards from 2008 beginning with colonels and right up to the lieutenant generals should be reconvened. The SC had asked the army to keep on hold its promotion boards, scheduled for 28 April, to be kept on hold till it hears the case on 22 April. The complainants to the AFT think that the apex court is willing to expedite the legal process and pass a judgment quickly.
Army’s contention is that the Kargil Review Committee had wanted a younger officer corps for combat. Following that, Ajai Vikram Singh Committee went into the issue of army promotion policy and had observed that colonels should be of the age 36-37 years, while brigadiers be of the age of 44-45 years. Following this, the army had found that it could conform to the recommendations only by increasing the number of vacancies by reducing tenures. This formulation was accepted by the AV Singh Committee as a ‘Short Term Measure’ and was made in line with a ‘peel off’ factor (meaning that officers of a retiring age were not promoted to the next grade thus allowed to leave). This was called the ‘command exit’ model, which replaced the pro-rata system that was based on the proportion of the eligible officers for promotions with the number of vacancies available.
Infantry and Artillery thus have more vacancies for colonels and above. And this also accelerated the better career opportunities for the officers of the two arms causing heart-burn within the ranks of armoured corps, mechanised infantry, engineers and signals, besides services like logistics. The army top echelons still believe that the promotions have to be based on operational and other functional necessities. This was considered to be following the ‘logic of war.’ But the aggrieved group believes that the army policy was affecting their rights under Art 14 that guarantees ‘equality of opportunity.’
Army also believes that its ability for combat have been enhanced by implementing this policy though it has not been fully able to implement the policy as yet because they still have colonels in the age range of 37-38 and brigadiers of 47-48.
A SC order providing relief to the 191 junior officers of the ranks of lieutenant colonels and below that have swelled to about 250 will retard the process that have been put in place after