The Supreme Court on Wednesday put on hold the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) order quashing the army’s promotion policy for the rank of colonel from January 2009.
A bench headed by Justice TS Thakur stayed the implementation of the AFT order after attorney general Mukul Rohatgi submitted that the 2009 policy was the need of the hour to ensure that the Indian Army always had young battalion commanders to match up to the Pakistani and Chinese unit commanders in age. Rohatgi mentioned the Ministry of Defence’s appeal against the tribunal order before the court.
Under the 2009 policy, the ministry has been offering promotion to officers from select branches such as the infantry and the artillery. The AFT had struck down this policy, holding it as arbitrary and skewed in favour of the two branches. Rohatgi said the policy was based on the recommendation of a committee that had gone into the question of why the army’s response had been sluggish in the Kargil War. He accepted in the top court that the Indian side had not reacted as swiftly as its enemy on account of overage colonels in command of combat units on the high glaciers.
While the Indian commanders were aged around 41, Pakistan had commanders around 37. Rohatgi said the Israeli army commanders are around 32. “It gives them better success rate and efficiency in times of battle,” the attorney general stated in the court.
He submitted that it was a government policy decision that the tribunal could not have quashed, since the right to promotion was not fundamental, though the right to be considered for promotion was.