The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that officers in the rank of group captain (time scale) will now be entitled to continue in service like group captain (select) up to the age of 57.
Earlier, these group captains retired at 54.
The rank of group captain (time scale) is granted to a wing commander, who is superseded during the promotion based on merit three times, and has to wait for a service of 26 years while the rank of group captain (select) is granted on basis of merit much earlier.
Above the rank of group captain all promotions are based on merit and there are no time-scale promotions.
The 2009 notification of the Air Force of early retirement of group captain (time scale) was issued after the implementation of recommendations of the AV Singh Committee report. Though both classes of group captains get the same pay scale, grade pay and wear the same rank.
No such case of early retirement of colonel (time scale) exists in the Army.
The central government argued that officers who get promoted to the rank of group captain on the basis of merit constitute a class different from the ones who do not make it to the next rank on that basis. It was added that officers who fail to make the grade in merit selection on three occasions admissible to them are eventually promoted to the rank of group captain based on the length of their service and it does not make them equal to their colleagues who have stolen a march over them by virtue of their superior merit.
But the bench constituting Justices TS Thakur and C Nagappan ruled, “Group captains constitute one rank and cadre. The distinction between a group captain (select) and group captain (time scale) is indicative only of the route by which they have risen to that rank. Both are promotees. One reaches the rank earlier because of merit than the other who takes a longer time to do so because he failed to make it in the three chances admissible to him. The select officers may in that sense be on a relative basis more meritorious than time-scale officers. But that is bound to happen in every cadre irrespective of whether the cadre comprises only directly recruited officers or only promotes or a mix of both.”
The judgment adds, “Inter se merit will always be different, with one officer placed above the other. But just because one is more meritorious than the other would not by itself justify a different treatment, much less in the matter of age of superannuation.”