Supreme Court seeks govt. view on Army’s exit promotion policy as it voilate equality

The Supreme Court has sought the Centre’s response on whether it approved of the Army’s “command exit promotion” policy, quashed by the Armed Forces Tribunal, for officers of the rank of Colonel and above from January 2009.

Background:

  • The Bench is hearing the appeal of the Defence Ministry against Armed Forces Tribunal’s decision to quash Army’s “command exit promotion” policy on the ground that it is violative of Article 14 (right to equality) of the Constitution.
  • The Supreme Court had on March 25 stayed the March 2 decision of AFT to quash the Army’s promotion policy.
  • Some Army officers had claimed that the new promotion policy had adversely affected them as it is arbitrary and highly skewed in favour of Infantry and Artillery, as compared to other branches of the Army.

What is command exit promotion policy?

  • It was implemented in 2009.
  • The 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.

Issues:

  • 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.
  • Reserving command for the infantry increased its colonel vacancies by 30%, 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 artillery’s command tenure was shortened from 3½ to just 3 years, similarly boosting its colonel vacancies.
  • Overall, this has resulted in up to 60% of infantry and artillery lieutenant colonels being approved for promotion to colonel rank, while some other branches had approval ratings as low as 26 %.
  • This goes “against the fundamental right of equality of opportunity”.

Sources: The Hindu, BS.

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