In a major setback to the army, the law ministry has shot down a proposal to amend a promotion policy that would have brightened the career prospects of top officers.
Scuttling the army’s hopes of giving its generals a better career profile, Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium has strongly opposed any move to make “ad hoc changes in the existing promotion policy”, warning it could have serious legal implications.
Pitching for a single-stream promotion policy, the army had proposed doing away with the existing system of dividing vacancies for major generals and lieutenant generals into two different streams — the more glamourous ‘command’ and a less attractive ‘staff’ stream.
The army had advanced the argument that the two-stream policy had caused bitterness in the upper rung.
The army currently gives precedence to command stream officers, who are eligible to head field formations such as divisions and corps, over those from the staff stream, who handle administrative jobs. The commanders become “en bloc senior” to the staff stream officers, who are not considered for promotion to the next rank.
Hesitant to reverse the promotion policy implemented by former army chief Gen Deepak Kapoor (retd) barely two years ago, a cautious defence ministry had referred the matter to the government’s second highest-ranking law officer, Subramanium.Currently, there are 88 posts for lieutenant generals and 294 for major generals.
“If not implemented equitably on the basis of past practice, then the proposed amendments to the promotion policy can be challenged in the court of law,” Subramanium stated in written opinion endorsed by law minister M Veerappa Moily.
In response to a pointed query from the defence ministry, the Solicitor General advocated “consistent application” of the existing policy.
“Till the time the army frames a comprehensive fresh promotion policy, the current one should be adhered to since ad hoc measures will be counter productive,” Subramanium said.
Streams are decided on the basis of merit at the promotion board. The two-stream model was conceived in 1986 but abandoned in 1993 due to widespread resentment among senior officers. It was, however, revived in 2009 to absorb more officers at the senior rank following recommendations by an expert panel headed by a former defence secretary.