A top admiral, who was passed over for the navy chief’s post, could soon be sitting in judgment over service matters of soldiers, including disputes and complaints.
Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha, who took voluntary retirement in April after being superseded by a junior officer, has applied for the post of administrative member of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) set up to settle disputes outside civilian courts, defence ministry sources told HT.
It is common for retired three-star officers to be appointed to the position.
The AFT exercises appellate jurisdiction in court martial matters and original jurisdiction in cases relating to service conditions such as promotions, seniority, transfers and pay and allowances.
Sinha was the senior-most admiral in the navy when Admiral DK Joshi stepped down as chief on February 26, 2014, accepting moral responsibility for a string of warship mishaps.
In spite of his seniority, Sinha was superseded by the UPA government since some of the worst accidents had occurred under his watch including the sinking of INS Sindhurakshak that left 18 sailors dead on August 14, 2013 and the INS Sindhuratna mishap that killed two officers and wounded several others on February 26, 2014.
Sinha’s junior Admiral Robin Dhowan was named navy chief in April.
A senior ministry official said Sinha met the eligibility criteria for the AFT post and could land up the job.
However, there are others with contrary views. “While he (Sinha) put in his papers in the correct military tradition, the fact remains he was not happy with the government’s decision. To that extent, he could be carrying some baggage and may not be truly impartial,” said Major General Nilendra Kumar, a former judge advocate general. Kumar said an administrative member’s job was of a judicial nature.
Admiral Sinha did not respond to phone calls or text messages.
Judicial members of AFT are retired high court judges, while administrative members are drawn from veterans who have held the rank of major general or equivalent or above for a period of at least three years.