In a first, Supreme Court imposes fines on army for denying officers promotion - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Friday 28 October 2016

In a first, Supreme Court imposes fines on army for denying officers promotion

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 29th Oct 16

This week, the army has vociferously alleged discrimination by the defence ministry in the devaluation of military officers’ status vis-à-vis civil servants. But, on Friday, the Supreme Court delivered the army a stinging rebuke for discrimination in the army’s own ranks.

Unprecedentedly, a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice JS Thakur ordered the army to pay financial compensation of Rs 20,000 to each of 141 officers from combat support arms, who continue being denied promotion despite a verdict from the apex court.

The case relates to a discriminatory promotion policy instituted by the army in 2009, which the Supreme Court found biased in favour of officers from two arms --- infantry and artillery --- whose officers dominated decision-making during that period.

More than a hundred aggrieved officers approached the Supreme Court. On February 15, a bench that included the Chief Justice partially ruled in their favour, and ordered that 141 slots at the rank of colonel be granted to three combat support arms --- engineers, signals and air defence. The army was given three months to implement these promotions.

On June 25, after the army announced its selection of 141 promotees, officers challenged the method of selection in a contempt petition. The Supreme Court agreed with them, and granted the army another three months to hold fresh promotion boards.

With the army having failed to hold promotion boards by October 13, when that period finished, the aggrieved officers filed another contempt petition last week. The army, once again, asked for additional time --- this time till November 28 --- to hold the boards.

Today the Supreme Court granted this additional period, but directed the army to start paying Rs 20,000 per month, for the last three months, to the concerned officers. This is the salary difference between lieutenant colonel (their current rank) and colonel (the rank to which they will be promoted).

It remains unclear who is liable to pay this amount, which, for all 141 officers, adds up to more than one crore rupees. The respondents in the contempt petition are --- the army chief, General Dalbir Singh; his Military Secretary, Lieutenant General Amarjit Singh; and the Additional Military Secretary, Major General Negi.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court’s February 15 decision will also face a fresh challenge. Officers from the logistic services (which include the Army Service Corps, ordnance and Electrical and Mechanical Engineers), which were denied additional promotion vacancies in that judgment, are planning to file a review petition.

While that judgment brought 82 per cent of the army at par for promotions, 18 per cent of the officer corps --- mainly in logistics services --- remains disgruntled.

In denying logistics services additional vacancies, the apex court apparently accepted the army’s argument that those services are staffed by officers who have opted to shy away from combat. In fact, except for a tiny sliver, most cadets have no choice in what arms and services they are allocated.

Further, even officers in logistics services serve long tenures in field --- including tough assignments like the Siachen Glacier and counter-insurgency situations like in J&K. In the army’s own comparative studies, logistics officers have performed as well as officers from combat arms, when placed in combat situations.

“Are we headed for a situation where officers refuse to serve in logistics services, because there are less promotions there? And is it okay to promote a less meritorious officer merely because he is from a combat arm? This discrimination is dangerous and is hollowing out the army”, admits a serving general from the infantry.


  1. Great job by SC. Merits of the case apart, a judgment of a court has to be complied with. Let the army not behave like the Karnataka govt in treating court orders lightly.

  2. What I think is, as we cannot increase the vacancy at the apex cadre(Brig and above),but we can very well -financially help our brave hearts .
    X and Y joined the armed forces in the same year but due to some reason X was not able to get Brig. rank but Y got,naturally the pay of Y would be far more better that X,though they joined the service in the same year.
    So,here Govt. should decide pay on the number of year spend in the that X should not face any inequity.
    That would at-least help our frontier.


    1. That is what is called NFU ..and being denied obstinately by the Govt to Defence Forces

  3. The definition of merit in such cases is tough. With the indian army taking part in so many anti-insurgency operations, I am sure there is enough opportunity for all to prove their mettle.

  4. This is already being followed for IAS cadre! Would the IAS baby's in Finance and Defence Ministry allow it? Fin ministry including Arun Jetley are the main stumbling blocks in restoring status and honor if servicemen. Poor defence minister I'd incapable if defending his turf.

    1. In consonance with that.
      And add to it, the various impediments that the top brass keep inflicting on the rank and file with regards to airing the actual grievances and the discriminatory policies.
      As a result of which these remain suppressed.

  5. With due respect to hon'ble SC time has now come to stop giving additional time to Army/MS and start giving additional vacancies to combat support arms. These vacancies should be given from the kitty of Infantry and Artillary rather than eating up vacancies of next batches. Or else they will file another case n the same story will again continue. Lets take a final call Hon'ble SC.

  6. It is a biased argument of the Army that logistics officers are shying away from combat roll They do 1-2 years attachment with infantry when any young officer is fighting at the fed most posts Even later they serve in equally difficult areas as any other arm of the Army In any case the allocation of arms or service is the prerogative of military secretary branch The distribution of vacancies are based on block system where the whole course is divided in the blocks of twenty each based on the merit list drawn on the basis of each cadet in the academy So theoretically a services officer who passed out at serial25 is definitely superior to an infantry one say at see 40 The argument put forth by the Army is wrong miss leading and utterly biased While the British realized the younger age profile needed for the fighting arms , the promotions differ rial of 2 years was given in favour of arms but services were compensated by enhancing their retirement age by 2 years That was a fair system But our Indian commanders are unable to fair Most come from fighting arms so the don't have any qualms of subject I d services to gross injustice We as Indians are simply petty no fed

  7. I opted for ASC but they gave me Infantry!

  8. Why are you hiding behind all these pension and promotion stories when the hottest story is that of the corruption and bribery scandals during DALALI and GHUSKHOR Congress Govt. involving Rolls Royce over Hawk deal, Embrear bribery scandal and who knows what else. Don't you have any shame for undertaking DALALI for the scumbags ???


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