Tribunal strikes down divisive army promotion policy - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Friday 6 March 2015

Tribunal strikes down divisive army promotion policy

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 7th March 14

In a landmark ruling on Monday, the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) struck down a contentious army promotion policy, which has deeply divided the officer class since it was implemented in 2009.

The discriminatory policy rigged promotions in favour of the two biggest arms --- the infantry and artillery --- by allocating them an unfairly large number of promotion vacancies at the “commanding officer” rank of colonel.

The rigged rules ensured the dominance of infantry and artillery officers across all senior ranks, since their preponderance at the rank of colonel --- which the 2009 policy ensured --- translated into additional vacancies at the successively higher ranks of brigadier, major general and lieutenant general.

“The action of the [army in] not granting equal opportunity of promotion to all officers of all corps of Indian Army is discriminatory and violates the fundamental rights of the petitioners under Article 14, 6 and 21 of the Constitution of India”, the AFT has ruled.

The AFT has ordered that all promotion boards to the rank of colonel held after 2008 should be conducted afresh, with other arms and services allocated vacancies based on a “pro rata” calculation.

This will open promotion avenues for hundreds of officers from the arms (including armoured corps, mechanized infantry, engineers, air defence artillery, and signals), and services (army service corps (ASC), ordnance, army postal corps, etc), who were denied promotion because of curtailed vacancies.

On group emails and social media postings since 2009, outraged army officers have complained that institutionalized discrimination was feasible because the last eight army chiefs, since 1997, have all been from the infantry and artillery.

While most officers seethed or expressed their opposition privately, Lieutenant Colonel Praveen Choudhary, a serving officer of the Army Service Corps (ASC) wrote directly to the army chief, General VK Singh, opposing the policy. In addition, he filed a petition in the AFT demanding the discriminatory policy be quashed as it violated Article 14 of the Constitution.

As Business Standard reported (“All the chief’s men”, January 14, 2012), Choudhary’s bold letter stated: “The formidable Indian Army is developing cracks. What the enemy would have loved to foster is happening on its own.”

While the chief ignored Choudhary, the AFT has upheld his petition, evoking an army hierarchy that discriminated in sharing 1,484 new colonel rank vacancies that the government created to have younger battlefield commanders. Instead of sharing these equally, the infantry and artillery generals allocated most to their arms through a self-serving new policy termed the “Command Exit Model”.

The AFT judgment reveals the first 750 colonel vacancies were fairly distributed on December 21, 2004, on the pro rata basis of each branch’s strength.  However, the remaining 734 vacancies, distributed on November 3, 2008, went mainly to the infantry (441) and artillery (186). The other eight arms/services got just 59 vacancies between them, with 48 discretionary vacancies retained by army headquarters.

“The newly introduced ‘differentiated command structure’ as opposed to the time tested policy of ‘vacancy allocation on pro rata of corps strength’ appears to be a malicious act of reverse engineering to justify discrimination in allotment of vacancies”, the AFT judgment states.

This “malicious” new policy was promulgated on January 21, 2009 in letter No 08176/Est/Policy/MP-2, of which Business Standard has a copy. This institutes ingenious devices to effectively multiply the colonel rank vacancies allocated to the infantry and artillery.

The infantry, which has 350-odd battalions, is also allocated responsibility to command 110 battalions of Rashtriya Rifles (RR) and Assam Rifles (AR), which are manned by officers from every arm/service. Exclusionary conditions were framed to make it almost impossible for armoured corps or mechanised infantry officers to command these units, even though the AFT judgment cites figures to prove that non-infantry officers perform as gallantly as infantry officers in RR/AR. But reserving command for the infantry increased its colonel vacancies by 30 per cent, from 350 to 460.

To compound this advantage, the command tenure for the infantry was kept the shortest, just 2½ years. With 460 infantry colonels needed every 2½ years, that meant 184 colonel vacancies each year. The engineers and signals, both combat support arms, were arbitrarily given command tenures of 4 years, reducing the number of colonels required from those arms. The logistics services were given 5 year command terms.

The influence of two artillery chiefs --- including General Deepak Kapoor, who was the chief at that time --- similarly boosted the number of artillery units. Small “light batteries”, which were traditionally commanded by lieutenant colonels, were elevated to “light regiments” commanded by colonels. The artillery’s command tenure was shortened from 3½ to just 3 years, similarly boosting its colonel vacancies.

As the AFT judgment points out, this resulted in up to 60 per cent of infantry and artillery lieutenant colonels being approved for promotion to colonel rank, while some other branches had approval ratings as low as 26 per cent. The judgment says this goes “against the fundamental right of equality of opportunity”.

The army has been left with little recourse, since the AFT has rejected it permission to appeal before the Supreme Court, since “no substantial question of general public importance is involved.”

It is learned that the army is considering a “special leave petition” in the Supreme Court. However, with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar having stated that he is opposed to fruitless litigation and reflexive appeals, the army may be left with no choice but to implement the AFT judgment.


  1. Col NR Kurup (Retd)6 March 2015 at 21:46

    Thank God. Our great Anthony Saab is not the Defence Minister.

  2. It is a sort of Brahminical system in every sphre of Indian life. Infantry is the "Queen" of the battle field and all others are supportive services and later became subordinate services. In Airfoce it is the flyers , navigators, engineers, and signallers and logistics in that order . Even within flyers the fighters, then come bomber pilots, transport pilots and finally the helicopter pilots. In hospitals we have Doctors, nurses, lab clinicians and so on. In Psychiatry we have Psychiatrists,psychologists, psychiatric social workers and finally the psychiatric nurses.Well that is how Indian caste system permeates and rules

  3. Shuklaji,
    Though not related to this thread but Kindly give some reviews about the given link-

    Ordering htt-40 is a good initiative based on make in india plan but in reality it will be not ready till 2020. For the sake of some indigenous trainer 2 models of basic trainer is totally unnecessary in IAF & basic trainer should totally consist of Pilatus7. Instead HAL should focus more on IJT-Sitara so that no more fighters are imported for intermediate trainer category.


  4. Though I DISAGREE with you on MANY
    other issues ; I WANT to CONGRATULATE you for this SUCCESS

    You were perhaps the first Retired
    Officer to RAISE your Voice against this discriminatory policy

  5. Sir, the pro rata model is the fairest one in the given circumstances.

  6. If Manohar Parrikar is against frivolous petitions against AFT judgements, then why DACP has not been implemented for 2 yrs?

  7. The article is misleading and distortion of facts.No court can ban the right to appeal against its judgement.What tribunal has stayed is - Right to leave. Secondly RM has given directions against appeals related to personal and indl matters like pensions diability etc.Thirdly the AFT has comletely justified the system of promotions in IAF which is by,for andof the fighters only than how cpome it has gone against this policy of Army on pts of merit.
    Agreed the case by govt/ Army council not fought well.He failed to bring out casuality ratio in War CI etc in respect of Infantry visa vis other.

    1. Ironical.. Offrs martyred.. Fellow offrs encashed promotion avenuesupon them.. Great thinking my fellow inf man.. Did you ever think of your men who still dont have any difference in promotion from other arms.. Ok tell me.. Could you fight if you didnt get amn.. In ur plans you target amn dumps to weaken your enemy.. So who risks life more. Would u fight without engrs with you.. Can you think of war less comn by signallers who always move alone and isolated.. Ok.. What is the difference between risk of arty and aad.. Great deepak kapoor .. Great vk singh.. You became chiefs of army.. And thought only of your own arms.. Do you have the guts to look into the eyes of other arms.. Hide .. Hide now.. There are more Chaudharies rising now..

  8. Ghorcharrah Gabbar7 March 2015 at 02:04

    Dear BroadSword,

    The Infantry (and their cohorts from the Izzat-Zero-IQ-Balls fraternity) divided up the promotional vacancies based on the number of units and annual turnover of Colonels at the appointment of commanding officers. What the infantry still hides and denies is that while they may have more units overall, they fall woefully short in quality as well as quantity of Colonels to command infantry (and RR as well as AR) battalions. As a result you have infantry command tenures exceeding two years across the board and touching three years in most cases. Other measures to make up the shortfall is by transferring Colonels from one regiment of the infantry to another e.g., Mahar to Rajput, withing Gorkha regiments etc.

    On the other hand Colonels from the armoured corps and engineer have command tenures which barely extend to two years, resulting in a faster flow of officers through the 'command funnel' whereas the infantry slows the turnover down to tide over shortages in quality as well as quantity. But thanks to their numbers and short-sighted condescending Generals, and equally clueless (uninterested) Generals of other arms, the imbalance has got worse over the years.

    We badly need a war to prune these infantry 'pongos' down to size - notwithstanding their phoney claims to pro-rata promotions and goodies based on their claims of being 'perpetually in combat / field / HAA'.

    No wonder we are scrapping the bottom of the barrel to come up with infantry Generals who are ethically-challenged, much less to speak of their professional abilities.

  9. Obviously, AFT is incompetent to understand reasoning behind the Army policy.Sadly,writer also is putting up motivated and highly biased comments,clearly showing lack of understanding regarding Army promotion policy

  10. If MS branch made a policy that allowed Infantry and Artillery to hog all the vacancies, then it was unfortunate and very short sighted. Smacks of petty parochialism ...........with the explicit aim of benefitting these two arms.

  11. Sir,
    How many days did you serve in field with either the assam rifles, rashtriya rifles or with any regular infantry unit?
    Please tell us about your escapades in siachen & your tales of valour & courage against enemies of the state performed under obviously the most trying conditions.
    A Modest man you may be but it might be in "larger public interest".

  12. Mr prateek,
    I am a mechanised forces my 15 years of service. I have seen more field than anyone of my infantry course mates.I have served in CI in peace/high altitude/LC/intense CI..I am also a bar gallantry award winner.and sadly I have served in all these places in command of troops role.lemme see if the army makes me a colonel inaugust.
    Mr prateek, there are people on both sorry about your commwent

    I know of an infantry guy with 11 years of service and two ribbons,,,9 years service and MARUSTHAL

    God speed...and thanks AFT

    1. Can u throw csome light on ur field tenures sob hat we can proceed further in this discussion. Hope Gangtok, Srinagar and Jammu don't figure out in those field areas.

  13. I think Great step by AFT. Now the Chief and the organisation should accept it with full heart and implement it. Otherwise if they continue to stick to their stand of opposing the justice, then they should understand that Lt Col Praveen Chowdhary has initiated a fight against injustice like 1857 mutiny and given hope to hundreds of others who will take the battle further but this complete exercise will make the mockery of MoD and armed forces and further create division within the organisation.
    I hope good sense prevails

  14. Indian Army sadly is getting cut deep by three castes for which today offrs led by their senuor lit will shoot each other rather than the enemy.first being the Type of Entry RIMC,Mil School,NDA,DE,SS,TES and the ACC/SUO.Secondly the Lineyard we wear wherein at mist courses of instr offrs claiming to be gurus are busy pullin up their corps types and last but not the least the caste of a man n his links being today's mantra of upward mobility whether Jat,sikh,mallu,bong,marathi,rajput,yadav n numerous others.Shame offrs are stooping to levels unheard of.Aim being to get that red lipstick on the collar somehow.Forget the role their better halves are playing in dishonouring the uniform.Why complain when mwn don't respect this new so called offr breed whether senior or junior.

  15. So does this mean you can enjoy a relatively comfortable lifestyle for 15 odd years in ordnance depots and still enjoy the responsibility of commanding men who will be better than you in field craft? Wow!

  16. I hv seen an armd corps Offr wid 11 yrs of ribbon ie 9 yrs long service n three commendation cards...
    It jus doesn't matter
    Instead of bloody n bitchy mud slinging by muddy ppl within arms had we appealed for NFU and got some parity aid civil counterparts den it would hv been better for army as such....
    But god speed cribbos.....


  17. # officer cadets make a choice; to be commissioned into the ASC and work in supply depots, animal transport units, motor transport units, preparing and loading pallets onto transport aircraft for air supply of provisions, equipment. others are commissioned into infantry battalions, learn to train and lead their men in battle, counter insurgency operations. these officers face a more rigorous, demanding tour of duty at significant risk of being responsible for their men being wounded, even killed, besides personal injury.
    in the civil services the home secretary is never from the postal service, but an IAS officer who has worked in the districts, handled district development, law and order, delivery of public services, although both postal and IAS are selected from the same examinations, interviews conducted by UPSC.
    if a young man knows that service in the infantry will give him a better chance to command a brigade, division, corps, just as winning a competitive place to the staff college, wellington will give him a better chance of being recognised as brigade major, GSO-1 material, the better type of officer cadet will decide to make his career in the infantry, engineers, armoured corps, artillery.
    unfortunately in our country, a career in the armed forces is merely an easy route to becoming a gazetted officer, given that the combined defence services examinations are less selective than the staff selection commission's assistant grade selection.
    instead of being thrilled at barkha dutt's depiction of faujis, and preferring to work in a five star hotel or call centre, we do need young men who enjoy soldiering, and leadership.


  18. Its nice to see so many people comment on the distribution of vacancies to benefit Artillery and Infantry.
    Distribution of vacancies was done by AG's branch. Who was the AG and the Director of the concerned section in 2008? No prizes for guessing: Infantry.
    These vacancies were foisted on MS Branch where again, who was the MS? Who was the Dy MS(B)? And of course, a couple of gunners were Addl MS (B) and the COAS. So the policy was distorted to benefit infantry, and some titbits thrown Artillery's way to satisfy the COAS.
    MS Branch was only involved in implementing the policy within the unrealistic parameters laid down by AG's branch.
    The failure was in the senior officers serving in MS Branch who did not display even the smallest amount of moral courage or honesty, for which they were posted to MS Branch in the first place. For them, it was more important to ensure either that their own arm benefited, or that their boss, who was being parochial was kept happy. In either case, these officers did not deserve to reach higher ranks or be posted in MS Branch.
    Contrary to popular belief(fuelled by people who don't get their choice posting stations), there are morally upright officers in MS Branch who work for the organisation, and the numbers are large. Only problem is, their actions are never heard of, because good work is never Hot News!
    The opposition to this policy within MS Branch will probably never be documented!
    This does not in any way mean that officers in other arms are any better. Those rooting for Pro Rata vacancies today are exactly the same people who did not want it implemented 10 years ago. After decades of grading officers outstanding(and believe me, all officers graded outstanding are nowhere near that standard - if any arm has a large number of officers who're consistently being graded outstanding, it only means that they have really low standards, their gradings are being inflated and their Initiating and reviewing officers are 'Liberal') if people say that a certain arm has better officers, think again - all kinds of officers join all arms and services. So if one or two arms have not really created a revolutionary method of grooming young officers, how can it be that at 16 years service, some arms have a large number of outstanding offices and others don't?
    So there are a large number of flaws in the way officers are managed, and even those who claim knowledge are really hollow.

  19. We( mech inf) were d worst sufferes of this policy. We had only 4 vac of brig in 2007 promo bd. With my profile I should have sailed thro' easily but thr new pro data policy we were made the scape goats and my inf course mates though not upto d march sailed through . Giving me only option of PMR. Incidentally i commanded my mech Bn in South Kashmir having better result than all RR bn in 1 and 2 sector. This step should. Have been taken long time back. G8 decision by AFT. Mech and armr offers will at least equal oportunities.

  20. frankly speaking, AFT should have penalised the top brass for violating fundamental rights so heavily that in future no person at the top should have dared to take such irresponsible decision causing great damage to the finest institution like Indian Army,

  21. I think in some cases we try to defend the indefensible. Someone has written that the Home Secretary is an IAS officer and not from the Postal Services. Well said.
    But pray my dear Sir, the officers we are talking about in the army have competed in the same exam of UPSC whether NDA/CDS. The officers who are being discriminated against probably were higher in merit at the Academy and at the time of commission than a lot of Infantry and Artillery Officers. So, the logic of IAS does not hold good. All cadets are trained to be an Infantry officer.
    In so far as Opting for services is concerned, what about Mechanised Infantry? Even that arm has been "had" by the army policy makers.
    Our problem is that the army thinks only of the immediate, we are in the process of becoming a mediocre army, the price of which we shall pay not today but twenty years down the line. It is no more a merit based army but a "Varna" system based army, where the services EME, ASC & AOC are shudras. High time some one set the system right.

  22. BTW any sane guy prefers to be in the field .. and field craft is no exclusive baby of the infantry .. a support arm does infantry work and more .. thats reality

  23. It pains me to see as a civilian so much one upmanship between offrs here. Rather tragic I'd say as part of the army ethos and culture also comes from each of you. elders in my family include ad gunners, infantry man and I have relatives in arty as well as armd corps. In the end while there will be bias based on each individuals capability, merit but luck too of getting stuck with a good superior or bad one, I only pray that you are fair and just to those men who may be from other arms who may be reporting to you during various stages of your career. My dad never asked for favors and to tell the truth offrs from other arms gave him better acrs than his own arm. In a way of speaking, it is like life anywhere (even in corporate sector). We'd better be the change for people we command than to spend our careers cribbing about those who command us. I pray that the comradeship be strong among all men in uniform cos come a war, like it or not, each of you are important and need to work together. I'm not qualified to make judgement on calls I didn't take or don't have privy info for. Take it in your stride. There will always be good and not so good men, which one are you?

  24. There are internal discriminations also. I am told that promotion policy in AMC leans heavily in favour of specialists ignoring non specialists who have no future after the rank of Lt Col


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