The SC on Monday upheld the government’ s command and exit policy but asked it to create 141 additional vacancies for promotion of combat unit officers.
Under the policy, the infantry and artillery officers are given priority in promotions. The Armed Forces Tribunal had last year struck down the 2009 policy terming it discriminatory after which the Centre had filed an appeal against the tribunal verdict.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India TS Thakur allowed the Centre’s appeal partially. Justice Thakur held the army was not a single cadre because the nature of duty of its officers was different in each division. “Applying the above test to the case at hand, we have no hesitation in holding that officers in the service stream of the army do not constitute a single cadre with officers serving in arms and arms support, no matter they may all be drawing the same salary, holding the same rank, wearing the same uniform and serving the same employer with similar service benefits,” the bench held.
Setting aside the AFT verdict, the SC ruled that allocation of officers to different arms and services puts them in distinct cadres. As a result, those comprising a particular cadre will have their promotional avenues available against the posts comprising that cadre alone.
This is notwithstanding the fact that the government, as a policy to remove disparity in promotion, may attempt to ensure that officers of a given batch pick up their ranks around the same time or within a reasonable span of their counterparts in other cadres. The bench felt nothing discriminatory about the policy as “officers in different streams constitute different cadres.”