NEW DELHI: Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman faces a new challenge as over 100 lieutenant colonels and majors of the Army have moved the Supreme Court over alleged “discrimination and injustice” in promotion of officers of the services corps.
“This act of Army and Union government (discrimination in promotion) has created tremendous injustice to the petitioners and others which is detrimental to the morale of the officers and, in turn, to the defence of the country,” they said.
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What should worry the government is the petitioners’ plea not to deploy services corps in operational areas along with the combat arms if parity in promotion is not granted.
In their joint petition, with Lt Col P K Choudhary in the lead, they said services corps officers were deployed in operational areas and faced challenges similar to officers of combat arms corps. Why then were officers of services corps deprived of promotional avenues available to officers of combat arms, they asked through counsel Neela Gokahle.
“The action of the Army and the Union government in selectively treating officers of services corps as ‘operational’ for the purpose of deployment in operational areas but ‘non-operational’ for the purpose of being considered for promotion is violating the fundamental rights of the petitioners and other middle level Army officers,” the petition said.
The petitioners claimed that continued discrimination in promotion was telling upon the morale of services corps’ officers who had discharged their duty in a dedicated manner for more than 10-15 years.
On February 15 last year, the SC had resolved an earlier petition by services corps officers complaining of meagre allocation of colonel posts for promotion. It was done with the help of a report by the Ajay Vikram Singh Committee, which was tasked post-Kargil war to reduce the age of commanders of battalions and brigades.
Without questioning the SC’s February 15 decision, the petitioners said they were challenging the selective treatment of services corps officers as ‘operational’ when the need arose and relegating them to ‘non-operational’ when it concerned promotions.
“The petitioners also wish to draw attention of the Supreme Court that the sacrifices of officers of services corps are at par, if not more, with officers of combat arms corps in the Indian Army,” they said.
“Officers from all other corps (like Signals) in the Indian Army, who are similarly placed as the petitioners, are being considered as ‘operational’ for all purposes while officers of services corps have been discriminated arbitrarily despite the fact that there is no difference in deployment and other duties which they are bound by the Army Act to discharge,” they added.
he petitioners urged the SC to order the government and the Army “to uphold the law that the combat services are an integral and operational arm of the regular Indian Army and treat combat services at par with the other corps of regular Army”.
“In the alternative, the government and Army may be restrained from routinely deploying services corps in any area of operation, save and except in circumstances of exigencies,” they said.