Havildar Ravinder Prakash (name changed) is a veteran of many operations. He has fought in Sri Lanka for the Indian Peace-Keeping Force (IPKF) and battled terrorists in the jungles of the North-East and Kashmir.
But his romance with the olive green will end on Monday. After having been diagnosed HIV-positive, the 42-year-old has been thrown out of job. However, the soldier in him refuses to die. On Friday, Prakash moved the Supreme Court challenging his discharge from the services. Though he did not get interim relief from the vacation bench of Justices Altamas Kabir and GS Singhvi, the court issued a notice to the army, seeking a response to his petition by August 6, the next date of hearing.
A native of Pratapgarh in UP, Prakash joined the army in 1984. After 14 years of service, he was diagnosed HIV-positive in 1998 during a blood donation camp in Delhi Cantonment. His HIV-positive status was communicated to his superiors and he was accordingly placed in the medical classification of P2, normally given to HIV-positive personnel not on Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART). Prakash was also promoted from Naik to Havildar.
However, in June 2007, his blood count began to fall, following which he was given the ART. Three months later, he was classified in the P3 category. Prakash’s advocate Aagney Sail says that though the army’s medical officer certified he was capable of performing his duties in December 2007, Prakash’s seniors issued a discharge notice.
Earlier, Prakash had moved the Delhi High Court against the removal notice. Though he got a stay on the discharge notice, the High Court vacated the stay in May.
Sail called the army policy of sacking HIV-positive personnel “a retrograde one” and told the court that his client had been sacked “on the erroneous assumption that HIV-positive persons are inherently incapable of serving in the army.”