NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday put on hold the Armed Forces Tribunal order demoting a Lt General to Brigadier’s rank and imposing Rs 50 lakh on the government for promoting the officer in violation of the rules.
A vacation bench of Justice PC Ghose and Justice Amitava Roy gave the order on Centre and Chief of Army Staff’s appeal, contending the Lucknow bench of AFT had delivered a “perverse” order. “Every part of the judgement should be set aside,” Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the bench. He said the verdict will have a demoralising effect on the army and tribunals should not be allowed to pass such orders.
The tribunal had also ordered Lt General NK Mehta to pay Rs 5 lakh after holding that he had colluded with his seniors to obtain the promotion from Brigadier to Major General in 2012. The AFT’s order came on a petition filed by Mehta’s batch mate Major General RS Rathore who was found unfit for the Lt General’s post last year when Mehta was promoted.
Rohatgi said since Rathore failed to get elevated, he went to the tribunal in 2015 to revive an old case, which Mehta filed when the authorities did not promote him to Major General from Brigadier. Mehta won the case in 2012. The law officer alleged Rathore sought a re-hearing of the matter on the ground he was not party to the proceedings.
Rohatgi argued Rathore had no locus standi in the case. Even if he was aggrieved, the AG said, Rathore should have moved the AFT in 2012 and not waited for three years to challenge Mehta’s elevation as Major General. “Both serve as Major Generals for three years and Rathore never complained of any malpractice,” Rohatgi told the bench.
Rathore’s counsel Aishwarya Bhatti opposed the stay. She said Mehta’s record as a Brigadier was counted when he was promoted last year to the post of Lt General. She said her client had challenged Mehta’s elevation as the top-ranked officer in the army, but a final decision was pending in the same.
Both Rathore and Mehta belong to the Army Ordnance Corps of the 1979 batch.