The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the government to spell out whether it has cleared the army’s promotion policy to have a combat unit commanded by a colonel at the age of 37 years who will exit after commanding the unit for two and a half years.
The bench of Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice R. Banumathi sought the government’s response asking if it had told the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) that the new promotion policy for commanding the combat unit was approved by it.
The court took exception to the government saying that the army’s response in the Kargil war was sluggish. It said the response was sluggish all over.
The court asked why there should be younger officers in the combat unit only and why not for those who carry ammunition and put up bridges in difficult locations.
Giving a week’s time to the government, the court said the government’s response should come either from the defence secretary or by the officer authorised by him stating whether the government had accepted the Ajay Vikran Singh Committee’s recommendation entrusting the command of the combat unit to a colonel at the age of 37 years.
The court also asked the government to give details of the promotion policy being followed by the army and if the recommendation of the committee was not accepted by the government, then how was it being carried out by the army.
The government had embarked on the course of entrusting the command of the combat unit to a colonel at the age of 37 on the recommendations of the committee, which besides other things had gone into the question “why was our response sluggish in the Kargil war?”
The court sought the government’s response after it had challenged the March 2, 2015 AFT order quashing the army policy under which newly created 750 posts were not to disbursed across the army on pro rata basis.
Under the 2009 policy, a larger chunk of the newly created 750 posts of colonels was to go to the infantry, mechanised infantry and the armoured corps.
In the last hearing, the court was told that initially 750 of colonels were created in 2004 for improving the age profile of infantry, mechanised infantry and the armoured corps in the combat area but was mistakenly disbursed across the army on a pro rata basis.
Since the pro rata disbursement of the newly-created posts did not achieve the desired objective of improving the age profile at the command level of the unit, the court was told that as a consequence in 2009, the pro rata distribution of another 750 posts was not followed.
The AFT on March 2, 2015, had quashed the January 21, 2009 policy which weighed in the favour of infantry, mechanised infantry and the armoured corps in combat area, saying it was violative of Article 14 (equality before law) of the Constitution.
The AFT by its order had said the government would create supernumerary posts to accommodate Lt. Col. P.K. Choudhary and other officers who were denied promotion on the basis of quashed policy subject to merit.
The government had told the court in the last hearing that it embarked on the policy of giving the command of a combat unit to a colonel at the age of 37 after the examination of the question “why was our response sluggish in Kargil?” found that while a colonel at the age of 41 was commanding a combat unit in the army, in the Pakistani and Chinese armies, the age of the colonel commanding a combat unit was 37 years.