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Army officers duty-bound to serve wherever they are posted: Supreme Court

Three petitioners had challenged their transfer from a non-operational unit to operational areas

india Updated: Sep 08, 2018 23:40 IST
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Army officers,Supreme Court,Army officers petition
A view of the Supreme Court in New Delhi.(Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)

Army officers are duty-bound under the oath they take to serve the country wherever they are posted, the Supreme Court has said in a judgement while disposing of a petition by three army personnel challenging their posting orders.

A bench of justices RF Nariman and Indu Malhotra dismissed the plea by the Army Service Corps personnel, holding the ranks of major, lieutenant and sepoy against the transfer orders. The judges strongly disapproved of the practice of Army officers questioning their transfer before a judicial forum.

The oath administered to army personnel requires them to “go wherever ordered, by land, sea or air.”

The three petitioners had challenged their transfer from a non-operational unit to operational areas. They relied on an earlier top court order wherein it was held that Army Services Corps, the Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers (EME) and other minor corps are “non-operational units and formations.” That case before the court pertained to promotional avenues for army personnel.

As a consequence of the top court judgement, the petitioners said, they were non-operational officers for promotional avenues. Hence, they argued, the same classification should be followed for the purpose of deployment and postings, too.

The Centre opposed the petitioners and cited the oath administered to army personnel. Transfers, the government submitted, were not only a necessary incident of service but an essential condition of service. Postings are a part of their regimental duty and not dependent on their willingness, it said.

The court accepted the Centre’s stand and held that irrespective of the service to which the officers are commissioned, personnel are duty-bound to serve wherever they are ordered to.

“This Oath is administered to all personnel, irrespective of the Arm of Service to which they are commissioned. As per the oath, personnel are duty bound to serve wherever they are ordered to,” the court said.

To accept the contention that the ASC has been referred to as a non-operational unit for service promotion purposes and the same rationale must be extended to postings would disturb the entire structure and operations of the army, the court held.

The army does make an effort to give soldiers postings of their choice, keeping the organisational interests in mind, two army officers said.

“However, it is not always possible to post them where they want to go considering the size of the army. It’s a transparent process,” one of them said.

First Published: Sep 08, 2018 23:40 IST