NEW DELHI: Their soldier spirit refuses to die down. A group of 350 senior army officers, who revolted against the Army’s promotion policy, is now seeking a review by the topmost court of the country. The Supreme Court in February found the policy biased towards officers of infantry and artillery cadre whose officers dominated decision-making. The last nine Chiefs of the Indian Army, since 1997, have all been from the infantry and artillery cadre.
The apex court ordered creation of 141 slots at the rank of Colonel to be allocated to three combat support arms — engineers, signals and air defence.
But officers from logistics Services (which include Army Service Corps, Ordnance and Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) were denied additional promotion vacancies in the SC judgment and are still fighting a legal battle for their cause.
Last week, a group of 26 officers filed a review petition seeking relief. The main ground of challenging the SC order is that the sanction from the government to the command exit model was never placed on record. “This violated the right of the petitioners to scrutinise and argue the most vital evidence,” states a petition filed by Lt. Colonel PK Choudhary and other officers.
The petition challenged the ruling under which it has been recommended that the amendment for the Arms support on grounds of compassion but not the Services, thereby making the Services feel “discriminated at those very supreme doors that they had knocked for justice against discrimination,” states the petition.
Logistics Services were ignored by the apex court on the basis of an army headquarters affidavit in which Army Service Corps (ASC) officers were mentioned ‘non- operational’. Services cadre has nearly 10,000 officers in its total strength of 2.6 lakh personnel and account for nearly 20 per cent of the Army’s strength.
The issue started in 2009 when Indian army’s promotion policy was challenged in the Armed Forces Tribunal, calling it ‘discriminatory’ and ‘rigged’ in favour of the two biggest arms — infantry and artillery — by allocating them a large number of promotion vacancies at the “commanding officer” rank of Colonel.
Calling themselves nothing less than combatant, officers from the Service cadre claim that operational logistics are as crucial as infantry or artillery units. Citing mortality rate of officers during 1999 Kargil War, they claim it was 3.17 (for every 1,000 men) in Services while mortality rate in Infantry was 2.77.
In order to keep a younger profile of officers in the Indian Army, as a fallout of the Kargil war, a committee headed by former defence secretary Ajai Vikram Singh recommended additional posts. The committee found that age of Colonels, who command a battalion of 800-odd soldiers, was a little over 40 years while the same for Pakistan and Chinese armies was 37 years.
The committee recommended a command-and-exit policy by which Colonels would serve as battalion commanders for two to three years and exit to a non-command post by the time they reach the age of 40.