Nirmala Sitharaman is in for a great challenge just days after her appointment as the union defense minister as over 100 lieutenant colonels and majors of the Indian Army have moved to the Supreme Court over “discrimination and injustice” in promotion of officers of the service corps.
The statement by the soldiers said:
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 defense of the country.
However, what must worry New Delhi the most is the petitioners’ plea of not deploying the services corps in operational areas along with the combat arms in case they are not granted parity in promotion.
The joint petition, led by Lt Col P K Choudhary, stated that the services corps deployed in operational areas faced no smaller challenge than the combat forces. Through their counsel Neela Gokhale, they asked on what grounds were they deprived of promotional avenues, otherwise enjoyed by the combat corps.
The petition read:
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 petitioners further claimed that this continued discrimination in promotion is hampering their morale, especially those who have been discharging their duties with complete dedication for more than a decade.
It is to be recalled that last year in February, the Apex Court had resolved an earlier petition by services corps officers complaining of meager allocation of colonel rank posts for promotion. It was done with the help of a report by the Ajay Vikram Singh Committee, prepared post-Kargil war to reduce the age of commanders of battalions and brigades.
Although the petitioners did not challenge the February 15 judgement, they said they were challenging the selective treatment of the services corps, who were deployed in operational areas when the need arose and were declared “non operational” when the need resided.
Their report further said:
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.
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.
The petitioners further urged the apex court of India to order the Center as well as the Indian 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”.
The petition then continued:
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.