By LE Desk
Chandigarh, June 7, 2021: Over a year after orders were passed by the Supreme Court, the Army has promoted two Brigadiers to the rank of Major General about four years after they retired from service.
In separate letters sent to Headquarters Central Command and Southern Command, from where they retired, the Military Secretary’s Branch at Army Headquarters has stated that the competent authority has approved the empanelment of Brig Nalin Bhatia (retd) and Brig VN Chaturvedi (retd) for promotion, The Tribune reported.
Brig Bhatia is of 1981 seniority and belongs to the Intelligence Corps, while Brig Chaturvedi is of 1983 seniority and belongs to the Army Education Corps. They had been due for promotion in 2015 but were overlooked.
The aggrieved officers had initially moved the Armed Forces Tribunal which rejected their plea for promotion. Thereafter, they challenged the Tribunal’s judgement before the Supreme Court.
In February 2020, the apex court ruled that the non-empanelment of the appellants for promotion as Major General was contrary to the Army’s promotion policy and they were entitled for reconsideration for empanelment by a Review Selection Board strictly in accordance with the promotion policy by keeping in mind the observations in its judgment.
The Army was directed to complete the exercise within six months.
“The Army was dragging its feet on the issue and we moved a contempt petition. The Supreme Court issued notices to the Defence Secretary and Army Chief and the case is still pending,” the officers’ counsel, Col Indra Sen Singh (retd), said, as reported by The Tribune.
The Army had contended before the Supreme Court that the Selection Board is comprised of seven top Army officers and their wisdom cannot be questioned. The apex court, however, held that there was no presumption that a decision taken by persons occupying high posts was valid and that judicial decision did not depend on the rank or position held by the decision makers.
Col Sen said that the two officers were the only ones in their respective batch to be considered for promotion in 2015 but were not elevated despite their excellent service profile which ranged from above average to outstanding and no adverse report.
Further, they met all the laid down criteria for promotion and had been recommended for promotion by all the reporting officers without exception in the chain of command.
“The Army did not did not disclose the reasons for not promoting the officers that were sought in an application filed under the Right to Information Act. Apparently, there were extraneous factors and internal politics at play,” he said.
While the court order does not specify the date from which the officers will be deemed to have been promoted, as per the policy in vogue, it will be with effect from the date promotion was due and they will be entitled to consequential benefits.