Centre should set up dedicated tribunals for paramilitary forces

Speedy redressal of grievances is an important factor for man-management in the nearly 10 lakh personnel in the Central Armed Police Forces to keep up their morale

analysis Updated: Sep 17, 2017 17:54 IST
Commandos of Central Reserve Police Force show their skills after their graduation ceremony on the outskirts of Srinagar. (Getty Images)

Constable Vithal Patel, a water carrier with the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) was dismissed from service in 1997. His offence? He wrote a letter to the prime minister about the service conditions of CRPF personnel. He got relief only after battling in the Gujarat High Court for more than 18 years. The government was directed to reinstate him and pay him salary for the period he wasn’t in service. After his reinstatement Patel was paid all the pending wages for no work done. The government incurred a heavy loss. Border Security Force (BSF) constable Umesh Prasad was sacked in 1999 for accepting a bribe from a smuggler on the Bangladesh border. The Delhi High Court, however, ordered his reinstatement in August 2012 with all consequential benefits. In another long-drawn battle, the Delhi High Court rejected CRPF constable Kumar Pal Singh’s plea to reinstate him. He had been dismissed for being an active member of a mob that raised abusive anti-government slogans in 1979. The High Court’s judgment was pronounced on January 14 last year.

Personnel of India’s paramilitary forces —CRPF, BSF, Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) and Assam Rifles — end up knocking on the doors of justice for years on end. Finally, when the verdict is pronounced in favour of the litigant, without any services rendered, the government ends up sustaining a huge loss by way of reinstating a person who has been out of service for too long to regain his past efficiency and arrears from the date of dismissal .

With an overall strength of nearly 10 lakh personnel in the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) as the paramilitary forces are known, legal cases are mounting in the forces. The CRPF alone has more than 5120 cases pending in various High Courts of the country while the BSF and the CISF have nearly 2,700 cases each. The SSB has more than 700 cases and the ITBP 800 cases pending. With such large number of cases pending in various courts, the average number of years to settle cases is around five to six years, says a senior CRPF officer. Not infrequently, paramilitary officers approach the courts with matters concerning their promotions which again take a number of years and tend to demoralise them.

In 1990, the then Home Minister P Chidambaram changed the criteria for promotion of officers in the CAPFs resulting in mass supersession of officers. Many officers were ultimately forced to go in appeal to the Supreme Court where the matter was dismissed on grounds of delay. In a case of biased promotion policy, the Armed Forces Tribunal in Chandigarh recently directed the defence ministry, to review its “two stream” promotion orders before October 2017. Had there been such tribunals for our paramilitary forces, many superseded officers would have been saved the ignominy of supersession and having to serve under junior officers .

Immediate redressal of grievances is an important factor for man-management in the armed forces to keep up their morale. Frustrated and demoralised personnel can do more harm than good.

It would be in the fitness of things to establish tribunals exclusively for the paramilitary forces for quick redressal of grievances. Apart from a judge as presiding officer of each tribunal, two officers of the ranks of additional director generals or inspector general could be part of each of the tribunals. Since cadre officers of these forces can better understand the problems and are better placed to address their grievances, they alone should be appointed to these tribunals and not the IPS officers who serve for short durations on deputation to these forces and are not in sync with the personnel.

MP Nathanael is former inspector general of police, CRPF

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Sep 17, 2017 17:53 IST