Defence services, India: personnel issues
This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
2019/ SC on case in which adultery not proved
Col facing adultery charge under J&K law cleared by SC
Ending a provision allowing army personnel to be prosecuted for adultery, the Supreme Court quashed general court martial proceedings against a serving Colonel in the light of its September 2018 verdict that extinguished adultery as an offence under IPC.
On September 27 last year in the Joseph Shine case, a five-judge SC bench had struck down as unconstitutional the 158-year-old provision in IPC Section 497 that punished a married man for the offence of adultery — for having sexual relations with a married woman without consent or connivance of her husband.
On the case in hand, a bench of Justices R F Nariman and Surya Kant declared Section 497 of Ranbir Penal Code, applicable to Jammu and Kashmir, as unconstitutional as its content was similar to Section 497 of IPC.
It’s a matter of discipline, says lawyer for Army
The bench said RPC additionally making the wife an abettor of adultery was of no consequence as Section 497 of IPC, categorising adultery as a crime, has been held unconstitutional. “The entire Section (497 of RPC) is, therefore, declared to be unconstitutional.”
The decorated officer was proceeded against by the Army since March 2016 for allegedly having two adulterous encounters with the wife of a retired Lt Colonel, who had complained against the serving officer to army authorities. Denying any physical relationship with the woman in question, the Colonel had admitted meeting her in Jammu and Srinagar at her insistence in relation to her social work. The officer, through advocate Neela Gokhale, approached SC and alleged that the retired Lt Colonel and his wife had marital tensions leading to the husband filing a divorce petition on grounds of adultery. But the woman patched up with her husband. She had written a letter to army authorities exonerating the Colonel of any wrongdoing, but later sought his prosecution.
Gokhale said the Court of Inquiry, after examining the Colonel, the woman and her husband, concluded the adultery charges could not be proved and recommended they be dropped. “It is learnt that at the behest of Chief of Army Staff, the administrative action was withdrawn and disciplinary action was recommended,” she said. Arguing the case before the SC bench, senior advocate Meenakshi Arora said since the SC had struck down the provision declaring adultery an offence, an identical provision in Ranbir Penal Code could not be invoked by Army authorities against the officer. The plea was opposed by advocate R Balasubramanian for the Army on the ground that it was a matter of discipline.
Writing the judgment, Justice Nariman said, “We are of the view that nothing survives against appellant (Colonel) on charges relatable to Section 497 Penal Code. So far as Section 63 (violation of good order and discipline) of Army Act, 1950, is concerned, the appellant has been acquitted, subject to confirmation. The appeal stands allowed”.
Won’t tolerate adultery, homosexuality: Army
The Army remains steadfast that it will not tolerate homosexuality or adultery in its ranks despite Supreme Court judgements decriminalising them last year. The force, in fact, is quite clear that it will continue to take action against officers and soldiers for “unbecoming conduct” under Section 45 of the Army Act of 1950.
But the over 12-lakh force is certainly grappling with a legal conundrum after the Supreme Court judgements struck down the relevant colonial-era sections from the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which in turn have already led to quashing of a few court martial proceedings by civilian courts.
Army’s outgoing adjutant general Lt-General Ashwani Kumar said, “Supreme Court’s judgements are the law of the land and the Army will abide by them.”. But the Army follows “a certain code of ethics” to ensure good military order and discipline in its ranks. Something which is legal may not be ethical, and vice-versa, he added.
General Bipin Rawat in January himself had stated that the Army was “conservative” and would not allow either consensual same-sex acts or extra-marital affairs – the latter euphemistically called “stealing the affections of a brother officer’s wife’’ in military parlance – “to perpetrate into the force”, as was then reported by TOI.
’Stealing the affections of a brother officer's wife’
Tribunal/ 2016: be lenient
Time Has Come To View Marital Ties, Infidelity A Bit Leniently: Tribunal
The military has been asked by the Armed Forces Tribunal to take a more lenient view on extramarital affairs and not award punishment as harsh as dismissal from service in such cases.
The observations by the Kolkata bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal were made while adjudicating a case last month related to the cashiering of a young Indian Air Force (IAF) officer, Flight Lieutenant Ishan Sharan, who was found guilty by a court of inquiry (CoI) of an extramarital affair with the officer wife of a brother officer. Squadron Leader Anindita Dasgupta committed suicide after the affair ended and Sharan married another woman four years ago.
The landmark judicial review by the AFT on September 14, 2016 has converted Flight Lieutenant Sharan's sentence from “dismissed from service“ to “released from service“. “The time has come when aspects such as unfortunate break-ups of existing marital relationships, consensual relationships with others and infidelity should not be viewed so seriously as to lead to the dismissal or even graver punishments that the IPC and statutory acts of the Army , Navy and Air Force provide for,“ the tribunal observed in its order.
“While not condoning extramarital relationships, we must at the same time reflect upon the changing mores of our society . With women joining the Armed Forces in large numbers, working closely and socialising with their male counterparts, it is unreasonable to expect that the military would be immune to social changes in relationships between the two sexes,“ the bench said.
Sharan was accused of “failing to exercise caution and restraint by staying with a senior lady officer in her house at Jodhpur's Air Force Station in the absence of her husband“. A CoI found him fit to be dismissed from service as he had been “behaving in a manner unbecoming of an officer by luring a senior lady officer into a relationship, thereby stealing her love and affection“. Anindita's husband, Sqadron Leader Vishak Nair, and Sharan were posted in Jodhpur at the time of the suicide in the intervening night of November 27-28, 2012. The tribunal took exception to the dismissal letter holding Sharan guilty of “stealing the affection of the wife of a brother officer“ and said its wording smacked of a patriarchal mindset.
“While certainly extramarital relations should not only be discouraged and disapproved of in no uncertain terms, to hold only one party responsible, that is, the male and not the female who may be as educated, as mature, even older and senior than the male, is reflective of a predisposed and biased mindset that also assumes that the wife of a brother officer is the property or chattel of the male and not an independent person in her own right who has the freedom to choose to live her life on her own terms,“ the tribunal said. It added, “The CoI did not take into account that in a marriage in the 21st century a well-qualified and educated wife, especially one in the Services and from a cosmopolitan background who holds the same rank as her husband, does have a mind of her own, a free will of her own, may pursue a path, however abhorrent and objectionable to her husband, including having an affair.“
The tribunal held that Sharan's dismissal was harsh, especially when the deceased seemed insistent on continuing with the relationship. It concluded that “at a belated stage, when much water has flowed under the bridge... it would be inexpedient and unwise to ask the Air Force authorities to take a fresh look at the entire episode in the light of the conclusions we have drawn. However, we cannot allow the stigma of dismissal to continue to remain on record given the circumstances of the case“.
Adultery will remain an offence for defence personnel/ SC, 2023
New Delhi : Defence personnel can be court-martialled and punished for adultery or extramarital affairs to maintain discipline, the Supreme Court said, though the court’s 2018 verdict had decriminalised adultery, which was earlier an offence punishable by up to five years in jail. The court clarified that its ruling was confined to validity of Section 497 of the IPC and not provisions of the Army, Navy and Air Force Acts.
Afive-judge Constitution bench of Justices K M Joseph, Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy and C T Ravikumar passed a brief clarification order on a plea of the Centre contending that the 2018 verdict had an adverse impact on the forces with defence personnel being under the impression that adultery and extramarital affairs were now acceptable conduct.
Additional solicitor general Madhavi Divan submitted that cases of adultery and extramarital affairs had gone up many fold in the forces and departmentalproceedings were being challenged on the basis of the SC verdict. She said the 2018 verdict was confined to the institution of marriage and was not about conduct at workplaces like the armed forces. “Allowing such conduct would disturb and destroy the command structure and impact cohesiveness and bonhomie of a unit. It can affect operational readiness and effectiveness of the force and imperil national security,” Divan said.
Such behaviour within the force could lead to “mutiny” and in one such case, it led to unrest and complete breakdown of discipline, she added. She said the authorities could take action under Sections 45 and 63 of the Army Act and under similar provisions in Navy and Air ForceActs. The court subsequently issued the clarification.
Army commanders’ selection
Kadyan case: ‘selection has to take place:’ SC, 2000
NEW DELHI, JULY 29. ``Considering the nature of sensitivity of the posts (of Army Commander) involved and that each of the officer (in the case before the Court) feeling that he did not get the best of the deal at the hands of the Government or that the members of the force being aware who is the best is not heading them will certainly weaken the esteem and morale of the force, the Supreme Court has cautioned.
``Therefore, the standards to be adopted and applied (in regard to selection to the post) should be of the highest order so as to avoid such an impression in the force, a three- member bench said.
Delivering the judgment, Mr. Justice S. Rajendra Babu upheld the appointment of Lt. Gen. H. R. S. Kalkat (appellant) as the Army Commander, Eastern Command, in March, 1998.
The Bench which included the Chief Justice, Dr. A. S. Anand, and Mr. Justice Doraiswamy Raju, set aside the order of the Delhi High Court which quashed the appointment of Lt. Gen. H. R. S. Kalkat and directed that Lt. Gen. R. S. Kadyan (respondent) be appointed.
The bench, scrutinising the records, said, ``the conclusion of the High Court that the respondent became eligible to be considered to the higher post does not seem to be valid nor the High Court was justified in proceeding on that basis and ``the conclusion of the High Court to that extent is erroneous.
``To the post of Army Commander, selection has to take place, it ruled. Considering the nature of rigorous standards adopted in selecting officers from the post of Lt. Colonel to that of Lt. General in the usual course ``it may be that the senior most officer is selected as Army Commander.
``But that does not debar the Chief of the Army Staff or the Union of India in making the selection of any other person for good reasons who fulfills the necessary criteria, the bench noted.
Therefore, it was improper on the part of the High Court to have concluded that the post of Army Commander is a non- selection post. Further, the conclusion reached by the High Court that appointment to the post of Army Commander ``has to be made on the basis of seniority alone cannot be accepted, it observed.
The Bench said, ``the position in law is that appraisal report on an annual confidential report (ACR) is not the sole factor to be considered by the selection authority but one of the matters to be taken note of by such authority.
``Heavy reliance placed by the High Court on the ACRs to reach the conclusion otherwise is not justified. In deciding whether a post is a selection post or not, one of the criteria to be considered is if it involves a comparative assessment of officers - necessarily the element of selection is involved and, therefore, the post with which we (the Bench) are concerned is indeed a selection post although not totally ignoring a senior.
``Prima facie, we (the bench) cannot say, having gone through those records that these notings (by the Cabinet Secretary) are baseless, the bench observed.
``Critical analysis or appraisal of the file by the Court may neither be conducive to the interests of the officers concerned or for the morale of the entire force, it said.
``May be one may emphasise one aspect rather than the other but in the appraisal of the total profile, the entire service profile has been taken care of by the authorities concerned and we (the Court) cannot substitute our view to that of the authorities, the Supreme Court ruled.
SC, 2019: Seniority a relevant consideration
Six years after then Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag was appointed as Army commander, the Supreme Court on Friday dismissed Lt Gen Ravi Dastane’s petition challenging the appointment, citing then Army chief Gen V K Singh’s pre-retirement order imposing a discipline and vigilance ban on him in May 2012.
Gen V K Singh’s successor Gen Bikram Singh had lifted the ban, paving way for the government to appoint then Lt Gen Suhag as the Army’s Eastern Command head. Lt Gen Suhag succeeded Gen Bikram Singh as Army chief and retired on December 31, 2016.
Upholding his selection as Eastern Command chief, a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta modified the 19-yearold rationale laid down by the SC in Lt Gen R S Kadyan case for selection of Army commanders.
While dismissing Lt Gen Dastane’s petition questioning his non-selection as a commander and challenging the appointment of Lt Gen Suhag and Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra as head of Eastern and Western Commands, the bench said in the Kadyan case, the SC had emphasised that appointment of commanders were by selection and that an officer did not have a vested right to claim to be promoted only by dint of seniority.
Writing the judgment, Justice Chandrachud recognised that appointment to the post of commander was by selection but insisted that given the sensitive role attached to the post of Army commander, it would not be wise for the authority to remain oblivious to seniority of officers.
“Seniority may be a relevant consideration, seniority brings with it experience of organisation, experience in handling situations and experience in perspective and planning. The post, however, remains a selection post. In making appointments to such crucial posts, a range of relevant considerations can be borne in mind,” Justice Chandrachud said.
“It would not be appropriate in the course of judicial review to confine the appointing authority to a narrow range of considerations. The appointing authority is best suited to determine who among the officers in the rank of lieutenant general is suited for appointment against a vacancy,” the bench said.
The Times of India, October 29, 2015
He who goes AWOL can't be good soldier
A rmy personnel who go on unauthorised leave can never be A good soldiers and there is nothing wrong in discharging such persons from force without issuing show cause notice, the Supreme Court said. A bench of Justices A R Dave and A K Goel upheld the government decision to discharge army man Manoj Deswal who went on leave without taking permission from his commanding officer. The SC said no special notice is required to be given before discharge of a person if he is accused of such indiscipline.
Dismissal of Adm Bhagwat, impatience with Gen V K Singh
The Times of India, Mar 29, 2012
Is Admiral Bhagwat saga playing out again?
On December 30, 1998, shortly after midday a special aircraft arrived at the naval base in Kochi, and almost around the same time the then defence minister George Fernandes was on line with vice admiral Sushil Kumar, the then commander-in-chief of Southern Naval Command. Fernandes asked Kumar to collect a letter carried by the pilot and report to Delhi by 6pm the same day. “The President is pleased to promote you to the rank of admiral and appoint you in command of the Indian Navy as chief of the Naval Staff, with effect from PM 30 December, 1998,’’ it said. Almost simultaneously, the then Navy Chief Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat was served another order: “The President has withdrawn his pleasure for your continuation in the Indian Navy for lack of confidence in you as the chief of the Naval Staff, with effect from PM 30 December, 1998.” It drew the curtains on a tumultuous standoff between Admiral Bhagwat and the defence ministry that was going on for several weeks. For many veterans and serving officers, the present developments surrounding Army chief Gen V K Singh have brought back memories of that unique event in Independent India: the sacking of a military chief.
The developments over past few days have painted the government into a corner over how to deal with the Army chief, who first dragged the government to the Supreme Court over the age issue, and now has repeatedly embarrassed the government over bribery claims and by leaking his letter to the PM. The Rajya Sabha in 2012 witnessed an unusual political consensus, and concern about the leak of the detailed letter written by General Singh to the PM expressing concern about the Army’s preparedness. While there are several parallels between 1998 and now, there is something else that stands out in case of General Singh.
Defence minister A K Antony received overwhelming support from political parties for any possible action to be taken against the Army chief. Some opposition members took care to tell the ruling front MPs that they wouldn’t be doing what the Congress and Left did to them when Admiral Bhagwat was sacked. In 1999, when the BJP-led NDA government sacked Bhagwat, Congress and Left parties had opposed the sacking. The sacking of Bhagwat came about after weeks of standoff between the two sides senior level postings, but soon spread to operational matters and even strategic outlook. The MoD had launched scathing and repeated attacks on Bhagwat, who retaliated in his inimitable way. However, the government soon ran out of patience, and sacked the Admiral, and made history.
Civilians’ emoluments vis-à-vis defence personnel
2004 onwards: Defence personnel paid considerably higher than civilians
The Times of India, November 23, 2015
Post-2004, salary gap continues to widen: Panel analysis
Defence personnel get higher pay than civilian counterparts
Officers of the three defence services -Army, IAF and Navy -are paid 29% higher salary compared to their civilian counterparts from the IAS, IPS and other Group A services at the starting level, the seventh pay panel has said. For post-2004 recruits, this pay differential has increased to 43% in favour of defence officers as civil servants who joined thereafter have to contribute towards pension benefits. This gap continues to remain wide at over 20% in favour of defence officers for the first nine years of service and remains uninterruptedly higher for 32 years.
“It does not take into account allowances, which are intended to compensate for specific hardships and risks that (defence) officers face in the discharge of their duties,“ the pay panel noted while doing a comparative analysis of salaries of defence officials with civil servants.
The analysis of pay does not account for other benefits in cash and kind admissible to defence officers such as free rations, tax concession for canteen, travel in railways and by air and free electricity up to 100 units each month.
The comparison was drawn after the three defence services in their joint memorandum urged the panel to maintain their edge in pay over civil servants. In its report submitted to the government on Thursday , the pay panel observed that after the sixth pay commission award, “the pay of defence service officers remains un interruptedly higher for a 32year period. Thereafter, pay of defence and civil service officers are at par“.
“The edge in initial pay for defence service officers, which was 7% post-third CPC, fell marginally to 4% and 3% in the fourth and fifth CPC respectively, has postsixth CPC increased sharply to 29%,“ the report said.
The commission, however, justified the pay edge and said, “Defence forces personnel are trained for war-like situations with highly sophisticated war machinery . They have to keep themselves posted in modern warfare. The military institutions are a key symbol of national pride.“
Further, a study commissioned by the seventh pay panel showed that salaries of defence officers and JCO ORs in India, based on sixth CPC pay scales, compared favourably with that of defence personnel in countries like the US and the UK, where the GDP per capita in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms is significantly higher than that of India -9.4 times in the case of the US and 6.7 times in the case of the UK.
The pay panel clarified that these conclusions were equally applicable to civilian employees who were similarly placed. The Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses carried out the study comparing the salary structure of personnel in the Indian defence forces with that of UK and US on PPP basis.
Proportion of officers retiring with disability pension/ 2015- 2020
New Delhi : As many as 36%-40% of officers who retire every year get disability pension, which is much higher than the normal one, while only 15%-18% of the jawans get it. Moreover, the percentage of medical officers retiring with disability pension is “significantly higher” at 44-58% as compared to other officers in the 12-lakh Army.
Citing these statistics in its latest report tabled in Parliament, the CAG has asked the MoD and Army HQ “to assess the reasons” for such a high percentage of officers, especially medical officers, being granted “the disability element” on being discharged from service. “Further, 22% and 13% of the disability pension cases granted to theofficers and PBORs (personnel below officer rank), respectively, were exclusively on the ground of lifestyle diseases (hypertension & Type-2 diabetes),” the CAG said.
New Delhi : The CAG has asked the defence ministry and the Army HQ “to assess the reasons” fora high percentage of officers getting disability pension.
“The ministry may ensure the complete database with all the relevant information is maintained to carry out an analysis of the main reasons of disability, including lifestyle diseases among the defence forces, for possible corrective action,” it fur ther added. After examining the records from 2015-16 to 2019-20, the audit watchdog said 2,446 officers (53 invalidated, 2,393 discharged on retirement) of the 6,388 total retirees in the timeframe were granted disa bility pension. For PBORs, the corresponding number stood at 48,311 (18,412 of them were invalidated ) of the total 2. 98 lakh.
The CAG had sought a reply from the MoD whether it had carried out any “root cause analysis” regarding the higher percentage of officers and medical officers being granted “the disability element” and whether any measures had been taken to address the issues. “The response was awaited as of January 2023,” it said.
Many soldiers do sufferinjuries, undergo tremendous stress and strain while serving in high-altitude areas and relentless counterinsurgency operations among other deployments in far-flung areas. But, the Army headquarters in 2019 had also acknowledged the disability pension provision was being misused by some, with a few officers e ven getting disability certificates days before their retirement to get higher pensions.
“On average, the disability pension is 20% to 50% higher than a normal one. A proper analysis and corrective action should be done to prevent the misuse of the system by some personnel. Most cases are genuine and should not be penalized,” a senior officer said. The 7th Central Pay Commission, had a lso questioned the significant jump in disability pension cases, especially in senior ranks.
Dismissal from service
Act of cowardice
The Supreme Court has granted pension to eight soldiers who were dismissed by the Army for an act of cowardice during a militant attack in 2003 on an EME battalion in Akhnoor of Jammu & Kashmir.
A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and A M Khanwilkar partly allowed the Union government's appeal against the decision of Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), which had ordered their reinstatement with full back wages. The SC granted them only pension benefits and refused back wages.
Nine soldiers were on guard duty in Akhnoor on July 22, 2003, when terrorists struck at around 5.50 am and attempted to move towards the quarter guard area where arms and ammunition were stored.
The nine soldiers who formed the rear guard failed to take action to neutralise the terrorists. During a Court of Inquiry , it was found that most of these nine soldiers had returned almost the entire ammunition allotted to them (one of them returned 37 rounds of the 40 rounds of ammunition allowed to him). The CoI found the soldiers blameworthy of displaying cowardice, failing to take effective steps to counter the threat and failing to neutralise the terrorists despite being armed.
Challenging the AFT decision, additional solicitor general Maninder Singh argued that there was sufficient evidence to demonstrate that these soldiers displayed cowardice. The bench agreed with Sing but decided to take a lenient view since seven of the eight dismissed soldiers had reached the age of superannuation.
Disability pension for schizophrenia
SC relief for family of schizophrenic ex-soldier
The Supreme Court has come to the rescue of the family of an ex-Armyman who was discharged from service for suffering from schizophrenia but was denied disability pension on the ground that his psychiatric disorder was not triggered because of his job. The Armyman died in 2015.
A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and R Banumathi said Army personnel were recruited after extensive medical tests and if a soldier developed any mental disorder later, it would be presumed that it was caused because of the work. It said the government could not deny disability pension if someone was discharged due to stressrelated mental disorder.
“A general presumption is to be drawn that a member is presumed to have been in sound physical and mental condition upon entering service except as to physical disabilities noted or recorded at the time of entrance. If a person is discharged from service on medical ground for deterio ration in his health, it is to be presumed that the deterioration in the health has taken place due to service,“ the bench said. The court passed the order on the plea of family members of Laxmanram Poonia who was discharged after he was detected to be suffering from `acute schizophrenia like psychotic disorder'. He had served in the 27 AD Regiment for four years. Poonia died in 2015, two months after the Armed Force Tribunal dismissed his pension plea. His legal heirs then moved SC.
Advocate Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for Poonia's family members, contended that he was physically and mentally fit when he was inducted in the Army but developed mental disorder and hypertension due to continuous duty hours for several days. She said his medical condition deteriorated as he was not allowed leave and was overburdened with work due to scarcity of staff.
The government refuted the allegation and told the bench that Poonia's medical condition was not work related and he must have been suffering from the illness before joining the force.
It contended that a person's psychiatric disorder could not be detected in the medical examination conducted at the time of enrolment. The bench, however, rejected the Centre's contention and said there was nothing on record to show that he was suffering from the illness at the time of joining the force.
“When he was enrolled in the Army on September 14, 2005, nothing was recorded in his service record that he was suffering from any disease or disability. Likewise, during the entire period of training and while he was performing his service there was no sign of any abnormal behaviour or disability. For the first time, in or about 2007, he is alleged to have shown his agitated behaviour,“ the bench said. “In the absence of any evidence on record to show that he was suffering from any such disease like schizophrenia at the time of entering into military service, it will be presumed that he was in sound mental condition at the time of entering into military service and the deterioration of health has taken place due to military service,“ it added.
Emoluments of service chiefs
2016: After the 7th pay commission
The Times of India, Apr 27 2016
A comparison drawn by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), a defence ministry think tank, on the pay packets of Army chiefs and equivalent in the US, the UK and India said a general and equivalent in the US was paid $181,500 per annum (in PPP terms). The salary in the UK for similar ranks was $269,868. In India, the three services chiefs, who enjoy pay equivalent to the Cabinet secretary , received $140,520.
If the recommendations of the 7th pay panel are implemented, the Indian Army chief 's annual salary will jump to $189,482 (in PPP terms), almost $8,000 more than what a general and equivalent ranks draw in the US. The huge salary hikes will apply equally to civilian officers too.
India's annual per capita income is $5,833 (in PPP terms) while it is $54,630 in the US and $39,137 in the UK. The purchasing power parity conversion factor, used worldwide to compare income levels in different countries, is “the number of units of a country's currency required to buy the same amounts of goods and services in the domestic market as a dollar would buy in the US“.
The pay panel observed, in light of protests by the three Service chiefs asking for more money and perks, that “defence service officers and JCOORs in India, based on 6th CPC pay scales, are placed quite well in terms of pay , even in relation to defence personnel in countries like US and UK, where the GDP per capita in PPP terms for the country as a whole is significantly higher than that of India“.
These conclusions are, however, equally applicable to civilian employees of the government who are similarly placed. The pay panel's analysis did not take into account the augmentation of pay being recommended by the 7th CPC.
The IDSA, an autonomous institution funded by the government, was in 2015 commissioned by the Pay Commission to study how well the military and the generals were paid.
Extension in service
President’s military secretary gets preferential treatment
Bid To Facilitate Promotion To Lt Gen Rank
In an unusual move that has raised eyebrows in military circles, the government has granted a month’s extension to the military secretary to the President, Major General Anil Khosla, beyond his December 31 retirement date in order for a special review board to consider his promotion to the next Lieutenant General rank.
Sources said Major General Khosla, who was commissioned into the Kumaon Regiment in 1979, had got extension in service for his promotion case to be considered afresh by the special review board even though “he had not made the grade in three consecutive selection boards” held by the Army.
“But there is nothing in the offing as of now. A special review board, consisting of the Army chief, vice-chief and GOCs-in-C of the six operational and one training command, cannot be convened just like that to consider one case. It will set a wrong precedent,” said a source.
Major General Khosla, who refused to say anything on being contacted by TOI, was promoted to the two-star general rank in the “staff only” stream and was subsequently posted as the military secretary to former President Pranab Mukherjee.
Continuing in the post after Ram Nath Kovind took over as the President in July last year, Major General Khosla was to superannuate on turning 58 on December 31. A Lt-General can serve till the age of 60.
As per the existing promotion policy in the Army, brigadiers approved in the ‘command’ stream go on to head operational formations like divisions and corps, while the ones in the ‘staff’ stream are relegated to administrative duties.
There has been at least one well-known case of a military secretary to the President, who is the supreme commander of the armed forces, getting preferential treatment in the past.
The government order in Major General Khosla’s case was issued on December 29, just two days before he was due to retire.
“The competent authority has approved extension of service of Major General Anil Khosla for a period of one month beyond his retirement date of Dec 31, 2017,” it said.
Gallantry award winners
Allowances doubled: 2017
Union government has finally doubled the monthly allowances for gallantry medals won during wars and peace, but they are still far away from being substantial. Recipients of the Param Vir Chakra (PVC), country’s highest medal during war, and its peacetime equivalent Ashoka Chakra (AC), for instance, will still get only Rs 20,000 and Rs 12,000 per month, respectively.
Gallantry award winners also get one-time cash awards or plots from their state governments but they vary widely with no uniformity. “They range from a paltry Rs 22,500 (PVC) and Rs 20,000 (AC) in Gujarat to Rs 2 crore and Rs 1 crore in Punjab and Haryana. States like Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Mizoram and Bihar give between Rs 8 lakh to Rs 50 lakh for ACs and PVCs,” said an officer.
Medals like PVC and AC are awarded — mostly posthumously — for “pre-eminent acts of valour or self-sacrifice”. Only 21 PVCs, for instance, have so far been awarded despite India having fought several wars and conflicts since the 1947-48 J&K operations. Similarly, just 83 ACs have been awarded till now.
“The meagre monthly allowances are embarrassing,” said Subedar Major and Honorary Captain Bana Singh (retd), who was awarded the PVC for “displaying the most conspicuous gallantry and leadership under the most adverse conditions” while dislodging entrenched Pakistani soldiers from a post located at an altitude of 21,000-feet in the Siachen Glacier in 1987.
Colonel D P K Pillay (retd), awarded a Shaurya Chakra for saving the lives of two children despite being injured during counter-insurgency operations in Manipur in 1994, was much more critical about the “raw deal” gallantry medal winners get in India. “While common people have a lot of regard for our heroes, disdain among babus in defence ministry is clearly visible. It’s not just about monetary benefits but honour and respect.”
Incidentally, the BJP manifesto for 2009 Lok Sabha elections had promised 10-fold hike in monetary allowances for gallantry medals, which included Rs 30,000 for PVC from the then Rs 3,000 per month, with retrospective effect. But as per the new monetary allowances announced on Wednesday, which come into effect from August 1, a PVC awardee or his widow will get only Rs 20,000 per month.
Junior commissioned officers (JCOs)
‘JCOs are gazetted officers’
Amid the persisting heart-burn in the armed forces over the entire issue of rank equivalence between military officers and their civilian counterparts, the Army has clarified junior commissioned officers (JCOs) like Subedar Majors, Subedars and Naik Subedars are “gazetted officers (Class-B)“ and not “nongazetted“ officers.
While the clarification will come as a relief for the over 90,000 JCOs in the 12lakh strong Army , the officers in the three Services are waiting with bated breath for the defence ministry's decision on the contentious rank parity issue.
The defence ministry (MoD) in October last year had issued a controversial letter to equate a Major General (Rear Admiral in Navy and Air Vice-Marshal in IAF) with a principal director in Armed Force Headquarters (AFHQ) Civil Service. Similarly, a Brigadier (CommodoreAir Commodore) with 25-26 years of service was made equivalent to a director (with about 14 years of service), and a ColonelCaptain Group captain to a joint director in the civil service.
After a major uproar in the armed forces, the MoD had clarified that the “entire issue“ would be re-examined by a three-member committee, headed by an additional secretary-rank officer, with the aim to “resolve it once and for all“. But nothing much has come out of it till now.
MoD officials, however, say the rank-parity issue is being “studied from all angles“ in great detail. “It's no one's intention to benefit one side at the cost of the other. We are also being cautious that no false equivalence is created or allowed,“ said an official.
As for the JCOs, the Army headquarters has cancelled a communication issued by it in 2011, in response to an RTI application, which had stated that the JCOs had the status of non-gazetted officers. Correcting the “major mistake“, the Army headquarters has now made it clear that JCOs are gazetted officers to remove the confusion.
Martyred officers’, soldiers’ kin’s entitlements
₹10,000-a-month cap on education of children to stay/ 2018
The defence ministry will stick to its recent decision to cap educational expenses in the shape of tuition and hostel fees paid to children of martyrs and disabled soldiers to Rs 10,000 per month in accordance with the recommendation of the 7th Central Pay Commission despite widespread protests from the affected families as well as the armed forces.
This has been conveyed to those who had sent representations to the defence ministry asking for the Rs 10,000 ceiling to be lifted, said junior minister for defence Subhash Bhamre, in a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha.
Around 250 students “have been reported to be affected during the current financial year” due to the decision to cap the combined amount of tuition and hostel charges to Rs 10,000 per month. “The allowance shall go up by 25% each time DA rises by 50%,” he said.
“Out of the total reported 2,679 students during 2017-2018, 193 students have been reported to be drawing more than the capped amount of tuition/hostel fee, and savings have been reported to be Rs 3.20 crore (approximately). The highest amount drawn has been reported to be Rs 18.95 lakh per annum per student,” he added.
The original scheme, under which a martyr’s child was provided full tuition and hostel fees without any cap till he or she acquired the first degree (like BA, B.Tech, MBBS, B.Com etc), had come into force after the 1971war to liberate Bangladesh.
Educational expenses of children: no ceiling
The government has revoked last year’s decision to cap educational expenses such as tuition and hostel fees paid to children of martyrs and disabled soldiers to Rs 10,000 per month after widespread protests from affected families as well as the armed forces.
The finance ministry, in a note issued, said the educational concession will continue without the cap of Rs 10,000 per month. However, it added that the concession will be admissible only for those undertaking studies in government or government-aided schools and educational institutes or those “recognised” by the central or state governments. It will also be applicable to students studying in autonomous institutes financed by the central or state governments.
The original scheme, under which a martyr’s child was provided full tuition and hostel fees without any cap till he or she acquired the first degree (like BA, BTech, MBBS, BCom etc), had come into force after the 1971 war. It was later extended to children of officers and soldiers killed or disabled in Operation Meghdoot (Siachen-Saltoro Ridge) and Operation Pawan (IPKF in Sri Lanka) as well as in counterinsurgency operations.
In December, TOI reported that the defence ministry is "re-examining" its decision to cap the educational expenses paid to the children of martyrs and disabled soldiers after strong protests by the affected families as well as a collective representation from the Army, Navy and IAF chiefs.
The chiefs of staff committee (CoSC), which comprises the Army, IAF and Navy chiefs,wrote to the defence ministry that the decision should be revised to ensure the Rs 10,000 cap is lifted. "This small gesture would assure the families of our brave women and men that the nation cares for them and their sacrifices are truly appreciated by the government," said CoSC chairman and Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba, in a letter.
"These personnel have made the supreme sacrifice for the country and the provision of educational concessions to their wards is a small gesture to recognize their commitment to the defence of the country," he added. Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh also wrote to defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman saying the cap is 'immoral' and 'unprincipled'.
"The fee being paid to the children of martyrs and disabled soldiers was a small price in exchange for what they had given, and continued to give, to the nation," said Singh.
The concession, which allows the complete re-imbursement of tuition and other fees for children of martyrs and those disabled in action, came into force after the 1971 war to liberate Bangladesh. It was later extended to children of officers and soldiers killed or disabled in Operation Meghdoot (Siachen-Saltoro Ridge) and Operation Pawan (IPKF in Sri Lanka) as well as in counter-insurgency operations.
As in 2021
Pay anomaly: Why Colonels earn more than Lt Generals
Anomalies in salary and pension of lower ranks of defence services:
In certain cases, even colonels are drawing more than lieutenant-generals. The crux of the anomaly is the addition of the military service pay (MSP) component, amounting to Rs 15,500, to the salaries of officers till the rank of brigadier. After the rank of brigadier, the component is subsumed and added…
While a lieutenant-colonel, colonel and brigadier can get paid up to Rs 2,26,200, Rs 2,29,500 and Rs 2,33,100 per month, respectively, after adding the MSP component, the Vice-Chief of the Army Staff cannot get paid more than Rs 2,25,000.
With the addition of the special component, the salary scales of senior officers from lieutenant-colonel to brigadier surpass those of major-general to lieutenant-general.
Another related issue is that of pensions wherein despite the existence of a protection clause, many generals are being paid lower pensions than their juniors.
Explaining the issue, an MoD officer said that while a clause protects pensions of major-generals visà-vis brigadiers to an extent, it does not give protection to higher ranks.
The position in 2016
Count Of Officers Retiring With Disability Rose Sharply In '13-'14
The government's decision to discard the 6th CPC's percentage-based determination -30% of last drawn basic pay for 100% disability -with a slab-based one in the 7th CPC is intended to bring more equity among different ranks risking their lives in battlefield operations.
After the 6th CPC, when percentage-based calculation was introduced, for 100% disability at the lowest rank for jawans, the disability pension went up from Rs 1,550 to Rs 3,138, a little over double, while at the highest level for officers, it rose from Rs 2,600 to Rs 27,000, more than 10 times.
The disparity seemed to reflect in disability being reported in the higher ranks of brigadier and above. Officers retiring with disability in the armed forces increased from 13% in 2007-08 to 20% in 2013-14. On the other hand, jawans and JCOs retiring with disability decreased from 19% in 2007-08 to 7% in 2013-14.
There are 13.20 lakh soldiers and other ranks who stand to lose from this skewed system that seems to benefit 66,700 officers (strength of the three Services). Military officers have been demanding that the government make an upward revision of disability pension from the 6th pay level of 30% of last pay drawn to 50% of last pay in cases of 100% disability .
But this would mean a retired general with 100% disability will draw pension equal to the pay of a serving general. A soldier at the bottom of the curve will get an additional Rs 10,00015,000 per month, besides the normal pension, in case of 100% disability . Disability pension is in addition to normal pension.
As per the new slab of the 7th pay panel, officers of the three Services, including honorary commissioned officers, will get Rs 27,000 per month disability pension in addition to normal pension in case of 100% disability . Subedar major, subedar, naib subedar and equivalent ranks in other Services would get Rs 17,000 a month; havildar, naik and sepoy would get Rs 12,000. The equity between the highest paid disability pension to officers and at the lowest rank has been restored to the pre-6th pay panel level.
According to the 7th CPC, the ratio of maximum to minimum compensation for disability across the ranks witnessed a decline from 4.85 prior to the 3rd CPC to 1.67 after the 5th CPC. But as a consequence of implementation of the percentage-based system in the 6th CPC, the ratio of maximum to minimum was reversed to 8.60.
After implementation of the percentage-based disability pension, it was noticed that more senior officers in the rank of brigadier and above were claiming disability and “Service officers invalidated out and one who served on and retired in due course got the same quantum of disability element“ in their monthly remuneration package.
50% of Army doctors, 1/3 of officers get it/ 2019
In recent years, the proportion of retiring army officers under “disability pension” has been almost one-third and even more significantly it is nearly half for doctors serving in the armed forces.
There is a clear increase in the disability pension numbers since the shift to the “percentage system” that made the benefits a proportion of salary. This, said official sources, seemed to have “incentivised” claims for disability status with a skew in favour of senior officers, raising concerns over validity of claims. In contrast, the proportion of retiring junior commissioned officers with disability pensions is much lower at around 9%, said the sources, defending the government’s decision that disability pension of military personnel will be taxed with an exemption only for those “invalidated” due to injury in service.
The government based its review on the concern that the disability pension, particularly after the shift to the percentage based system, was being gamed or misused. There has been a view that medical boards are susceptible to influence by senior officers and this has been further strengthened by the number of doctors in the disability category. The disability pension can be significantly higher than normal. An examination of the trend of retiring officers in disability bracket shows a jump in the last few years. The proportion of officers with disability benefits was around 20% or little more in the mid-2000s and has been rising since, though the increase is sharper in the recent past. The proportion seems much higher all through for doctors in medical services in the armed forces.
The government’s decision, which has the support of the current service chiefs, set off a controversy with some retired personnel objecting to the move and there was a sharp reaction on social media. The government’s justification, put out on finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s Twitter handle, was also sharp. It said the government’s commitment to help personnel hurt in battle was being “exploited by unscrupulous personnel, who have gained from disability benefits provided by government to disabled soldiers”.
The view in government is that the distinction between those who had to leave the service for disability reasons and others must be maintained to curtail the temptation to seek such status. The case of a former chief of army staff who developed a hearing impairment has been publicised, but there are many more that go unnoticed. A move to introduce a slab system has also been resisted in the past.
2020/ Allowing to military personnel who are boarded out before completing 10 years of qualifying service
The government decided to allow ‘invalid pension’ to those military personnel who are boarded out before completing 10 years of qualifying service.
Till now, invalid pension was granted to only those who had over 10 years of service and were boarded out on account of disability that was “neither attributable to, nor aggravated by military service”. If the service rendered was less than 10 years at the time of being boarded out, only ‘invalid gratuity’ was paid to soldiers so far, officials at the defence ministry said.
Many personnel, permanently incapacitated from military service as well as civil re-employment, will benefit from this decision. “The proposal has been approved by defence minister Rajnath Singh. Those who were in service on or after January 4, 2019 will benefit,” an official said.
Till now, only those who had more than 10 years of service and were boarded out on account of disability that was ‘neither attributable to, nor aggravated by military service’ got invalid pension
Op. Falcon (for China) not on par with Ops. Rakshak, Meghdoot (Pak LoC)
Did you know that Army soldiers deployed on the borders with Pakistan and China are treated differently in terms of benefits to their families if they are killed in accidents or while performing operational duties in the face of enemy forces?
Kin of soldiers who die on the western front with Pakistan get “liberalised“ family pensions and “enhanced“ ex gratia, but those on the northern and eastern fronts with China do not. The Army has been battling to get this “continuing injustice“ recti fied for decades, but without any success till now.
A liberalised family pension is equivalent (100%) to the last-drawn pay of a soldier. In sharp contrast, the family pension for a soldier who dies on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is only 60% of the last-drawn pay . Enhanced ex gratia to the family of a soldier dying on the Line of Control (LoC) would amount to around Rs 45 lakh, while it would be around Rs 35 lakh on the LAC.
The issue has become all the more relevant with addi the more relevant with additional Indian troops being forward deployed in hostile high-altitude regions along the 4,057-km LAC with China, stretching from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh, as a fallout of the Doklam stand-off. It's crucial to understand that the terrain and oper ational conditions on the LAC often have far more challenges than the 778-km-long LoC and the 198-km international boundary in J&K with Pakistan, said a senior officer.
“Families of soldiers who have laid down their lives in the line of duty , whether due to cross-border firings or accidents and avalanches, should not be treated differently . But the families of soldiers on the LAC get less benefits as compared to those on LoC and IB,“ he added.
Successive governments, for one, have refused to ac cord official sanctity to Operation Falcon, which was launched way back in late 1986 by then Army chief General K Sundarji along the border in Arunachal Pradesh to counter Chinese incursions in the region. The show of strength and diplomatic parleys ultimately led to Rajiv Gandhi becoming the first Indian PM to visit China, at the invitation of Premier Li Peng, in 34 years.
Notification or promulgation of Operation Falcon would lead to better death and disability benefits or “higher compensation“ for soldiers who continue to be forward deployed along the LAC, on the lines of the noti fied Operation Rakshak along the LoC or Operation Meghdoot under way since 1984 in the Siachen GlacierSaltoro Ridge region. As per rules, a soldier is declared a “battle casualty“ if the death or injury occurs in an operationally notified area.
But after the defence ministry's repeated rejections on the ground that LAC was not “a live border with a war-like situation“ like the LoC, which was also a reflection of the long-prevailing ultra-defensive mindset vis-à-vis China, the Army changed tack around the time the Modi government took office.
Keeping aside Operation Falcon's notification, the force pushed for “liberal ised“ family pensions and “enhanced“ ex gratia for families of soldiers who die on the LAC. Renewed ef forts were launched earlier this year before the Doklam crisis erupted in mid-June.
“But nothing concrete has happened till now due to general politico-bureau cratic apathy . The files just keep travelling between different wings and depart ments in the defence minis try ,“ said a source.
Same family pension for jawans killed at LAC, LoC
The defence ministry has finally approved the extension of ‘liberalised pension’ for families of soldiers killed in accidents or while performing operational duties in the face of enemy forces along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, on the lines of the long-existing provision for the western front with Pakistan.
The TOI had reported on October 8 that Army soldiers deployed on the borders with Pakistan and China were treated differently in terms of benefits to their families in the event of their death. While kin of soldiers along the Line of Control (LoC) or International Border (IB) with Pakistan got liberalised family pension and enhanced ex-gratia, those on the LAC got only normal family pension.
“Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman has now approved that the benefit of liberalised family pension be extended to soldiers deployed along the LAC in the same manner as for the Army personnel working along the LoC and IB,” a defence ministry official said on Wednesday. “The liberalised family pension provides for 100% of the last reckonable emoluments (last drawn pay) in comparison to normal family pension which provides for 30% of last reckonable emoluments,” he added.
The Army had been fighting to get this anomaly corrected for long without any success. Officers said the terrain and operational challenges along the 4,057-km LAC, stretching from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh, was often far tougher than the conditions along the 778-km long LoC and the 198-km IB in J&K.
The issue had become all the more important because additional troops have been forward deployed in hostile high-altitude regions along the 4,057-km LAC as a fallout of the Doklam standoff near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet trijunction.
Successive governments have refused to accord official sanctity to Operation Falcon, which was launched in late-1986 along the Arunachal border to counter Chinese incursions in the region by then General K Sundarji.
Notification or promulgation of Operation Falcon would lead to better death and disability benefits or “higher compensation” for soldiers who continue to be deployed along the LAC, on the lines of the notified Operation Rakshak along the LoC or Operation Meghdoot underway since 1984 in the Siachen Glacier-Saltoro Ridge region.
2017/ Same benefits for families of troops killed on Pakistan, China fronts
Govt has finally approved extension of “liberalized pension” for families of soldiers killed in accidents or while performing operational duties in the face of enemy forces along the China border
TOI had on October 8 reported that soldiers deployed on borders with Pak and China were treated differently in terms of benefits to their kin in the event of their death
The defence ministry has finally approved the extension of "liberalized pension" for families of soldiers killed in accidents or while performing operational duties in the face of enemy forces along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, on the lines of the long-existing provision for the western front with Pakistan.
The Times of India on October 8 had reported that Army soldiers deployed on the borders with Pakistan and China were treated differently in terms of benefits to their families in the event of their death. While kin of soldiers along the Line of Control (LoC) or International Border (IB) with Pakistan got liberalized family pensions and enhanced ex-gratia, those on the LAC got only normal family pension.
"Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman has now approved that the benefit of liberalized family pension be extended to soldiers deployed along LAC in the same manner as for the Army personnel working along the LoC and IB," said a defence ministry official.
"The liberalized family pension provides for 100% of the last reckonable emoluments (last drawn pay) in comparison to normal family pension which provides for 30% of last reckonable emoluments," he added.
The Army had been fighting to get this anomaly corrected for long without any success till now. Officers say the terrain and operational challenges along the 4,057-km LAC, stretching from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh, is often far tougher than the conditions along the 778-km long LoC and the 198-km IB in Jammu and Kashmir.
The issue had become all the more important because additional troops have been forward deployed in hostile high-altitude regions along the 4,057-km LAC as a fall-out of the Doklam stand-off near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction.
Successive governments have refused to accord official sanctity to Operation Falcon, which was launched way back in late-1986 along the border in Arunachal Pradesh to counter Chinese incursions in the region by then Army chief General K Sundarji.
Notification or promulgation of Operation Falcon would lead to better death and disability benefits or "higher compensation" for soldiers who continue to be deployed along the LAC, on the lines of the notified Operation Rakshak along the LoC or Operation Meghdoot underway since 1984 in the Siachen Glacier-Saltoro Ridge region.
As per rules, a soldier is declared a "battle casualty" if the death or injury occurs in an operationally notified area. While the Army is no longer pushing for formal notification of Operation Falcon, it had renewed its case earlier this year for liberalized family pension to be provided for soldiers killed along the LAC.
Special pension for Corporal who died while returning from the cinema
The Chandigarh bench of Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has held that a soldier who died while returning after watching a movie, shall be attributable to the military service and his family would be entitled to a special pension.
The tribunal passed these orders while allowing a petition by Tripta Devi, mother of corporal Vishal Raj of the Indian Air Force (IAF). While posted in West Bengal in October 2009, Vishal, who is originally from Pathankot in Punjab, died in a road accident while returning to his squadron after watching movie in a nearby city.
The defence ministry, however, refused to pay the petitioners the special pension meant for soldiers who die on duty and only granted Devi ordinary family pension on the ground that the death of her son was not attributable to service.
Devi approached the tribunal claiming that her son was on active military service and was not on leave at the time of accident. It was argued that before going for the movie, he had made the necessary entries in the records of his unit but died in the accident. The ministry, on the other hand, argued that he was not performing any military duty at that time as a result of which, the family was not entitled to the special pension.
A division bench of the tribunal comprising judicial member, Justice Mohammad Tahir and administrative member Lt Gen Munish Sibal held that the corporal sustained injuries while he was on duty which could be attributed to military service.
“Mother of deceased, Tripta Devi, is entitled to special family pension. The arrears of special family pension are restricted to three years preceding the date of filing of the petition – March 1, 2016 because the petitioner has approached the tribunal after a lapse of seven years of her son’s death,” ordered the bench in its judgement released on Monday. The tribunal directed the ministry to calculate the family pension and release it within three months.
Raj had joined IAF on December 16, 2002 and met with the accident in October 2009. Another airman, Vishal Singh, accompanying him was injured in the accident.
While posted in West Bengal in October 2009, Vishal, originally from Pathankot, died in a road accident while returning to his squadron after watching movie in a nearby city. The defence ministry had refused to pay his family the special pension meant for soldiers. Vishal’s mother then approached the tribunal, claiming her son was not on leave at the time.
Injuries from defective equipment
HC: ‘Pay Wg.Cdr. Kalia Rs 55 lakh’
In a ruling that may force manufacturers to improve their safety track record of defence equipment, the Delhi high court on Tuesday held the government and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) liable for injuries received by an IAF pilot in an air crash.
The pilot, Sanjeet Singh Kalia, was rendered unfit to fly after his MiG-21 developed a snag mid-air and crashed. He suffered debilitating wounds while trying to save a village in Rajasthan from the crashing jet in 2005, ejecting at the last moment.
Asking Centre and HAL to compensate Kalia, a bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Deepa Sharma on Tuesday observed that officers of the armed forces cannot be put to “more risk than they had bargained for“, and directed the Centre and the PSU aircraft manufacturer to pay Rs 5 lakh and Rs 50 lakh respectively.
In his plea filed through advocate Bharat S Kumar, Kalia, who is a serving wing commander, focused on fixing accountability on HAL and government for handing him a defective jet that led to the crash and left him with debilitating neck and back pain.
He submitted that the intent behind filing the petition was to ensure that “HAL is made accountable and aware of the ramifications of their actions, impacting the security of this country .“ MiG-21s are notorious for their poor safety track-record and have been derided as “flying coffin“ and “widow maker.“
Kalia also sought directions to the government and HAL to issue a formal apology for alleged manufacturing defect and faulty workmanship of the MiG-21fighter jet.
The HC concurred and held that putting officers of the armed forces into more than expected “normal risk“ is against the fundamental right to life, especially the right to work in a safe environment guaranteed under the Constitution. It held HAL liable to compensate the officer for “exposing him to more than a reasonable risk.“
“Immediately after take off, the petitioner experienced a drift to the left side of the aircraft. Simultaneously , the petitioner was informed by a pilot flying the second aircraft about a fire at the jet's rear end. Assessing the emergency , the petitioner promptly carried out all essential directives and lowered the landing gear of the aircraft for a landing,“ Kalia's petition said.
“Despite a near-complete enginecontrol failure and at grave risk to his own life, the petitioner continued to stay put in an almost uncontrollable aircraft so as to steer it away to safety from a nearby village... to save human life, the petitioner ejected only seconds before the crash,“ it said.
Kaila claimed that despite sending a representation to the government on December 25, 2012, seeking justice by compensating him for the loss suffered by as a result of the air crash, no response was given by the government.
Recruitment, eligibility for
‘Honourable acquittal’ essential: SC
In an important judgment, the Supreme Court ruled that a candidate would be entitled to join any of the security forces or police only if he has got an ‘honourable acquittal’ from the judiciary and not a mere acquittal due to lack of evidence or benefit of doubt.
A bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and J K Maheshwari differentiated between ‘honourable’ and ‘mere’ acquittals, both terminologies emerging from judicial pronouncements as these do not find place in the criminal laws. It said an honourable acquittal is one where the courts record that the person has been falsely implicated and that there is absolutely no evidence to link him to the crime. However, a person is ‘acquitted’ for various other reasons including lack of sufficient evidence, benefit of doubt and prosecution witnesses turning hostile.
The bench reversed concurrent judgments of the Madhya Pradesh HC directing employment to be given to a person who was acquitted in a kidnapping case because the prosecution witnesses turned hostile. The bench said it was not an honourable acquittal as the prosecution had alleged that the accused had indulged in physical violence against the witnesses, who in course of time turned hostile.
Writing the judgment, Justice Maheshwari said, “If a person is acquitted giving him the benefit of doubt, from the charge of an offence involving moral turpitude or because the witnesses turned hostile, it would not automatically entitle him for the employment, that too in disciplined force.”
Future officers to be engineers
After Navy, IAF Makes BTech Must Cyborgs like `Terminators', or even `Ironman' for that matter, may still figure only in the realm of fiction, but with modernday warfare becoming more and more technology-intensive, the Indian armed forces want to be prepared for battles of the future. So, with the aim of inducting “high-tech“ warriors for digitised and network-centric battlefields in the years ahead, the armed forces are now slowly but steadily making it mandatory for new officers to be engineering graduates.
With long-range unmanned combat drones akin to fighter jets, directed-energy weapons like lasers and highpowered microwaves, complex ballistic missile defences, hypersonic missiles, cyber warfare and the like increasingly becoming the norm, the forces desperately need “techsavvy“ officers at all levels.
First, it was the Navy that kicked off the BTech programme for cadets who join the tri-Service National Defence Academy (NDA) in Khadakwasla (Pune) after Class 12. And now, the IAF has also made it “compulsory“ for cadets at the NDA.The Army has left it “optional“ for now, officials said.
BTech in applied electron ics and engineering was launched for Naval cadets at the NDA from the June 2016 course. It began for IAF cadets from January 2017, while the one for Army cadets is planned to commence from the coming December course.
Around 350-400 cadets join the NDA after clearing the UPSC exam and SSB (Services Selection Board) interviews every six months for the three-year course. “Cadets, apart from undergoing military training and learning leadership skills, used to complete their BSc degree in the three years at NDA till now,“ a senior officer said.
“Now, they will do three years of BTech programme at NDA, without impacting their core military training, and do the fourth year at their respective Army , Navy and IAF academies,“ he added.
The Navy was the first service to ensure all its new officers were armed with BTech degrees, or at least an MSc (applied electronics) degree, because of the unprecedented expansion in warship technology , with state-of-the art weapon and sensor systems coming into play , as was first reported by TOI.
The force has now also taken to shortlisting candidates for its direct 10+2 cadetentry scheme for the Indian Naval Academy at Ezhimala (Kerala) on the basis of performances in the Joint Entrance Exam (Main).
The IAF, too, is looking to the future now. “While flying skills are very important, technical skills will give fighter pilots the edge they need to vanquish rivals.Fourthand fifth-generation fighter jets are, in any case, very complex flying machines,“ an officer said.
With cyberspace and space also emerging as new frontiers of warfare, apart from the traditional ones of land, sea and air, the armed forces are trying to build dedicated cadres of information technology experts.
Cyber-weapons, after all, can cripple a country's strategic networks and energy grids, banking and communications, and even sabotage its nuclear programme.
Height requirement for Himalayans: 163cm
The Indian Army has fulfilled a long-standing demand of people from Himalayan states to reduce the minimum height requirement for soldiers from 166 cm to 163 cm.Sources said that a notification in this regard has been sent to regimental centres in the western Himalayan region by Army headquarters.
The western Himalayan region includes Uttarakhand, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab Hills (the area south and west of the interstate border between Himachal Pradesh and Punjab as well as north and east of Mukerian, Hoshiarpur, GarhShankar, Ropar and Chandigarh). Confirming the development, a top source in the Army told TOI, “The Army has decided to reduce the minimum height requirement by 3 cm for natives of the western Himalayan region. The order will be implemented from October 1. The concession has been made on the demands of people from hilly areas who claimed that they were unable to join the Army because of their height.“
Former defence minister Manohar Parrikar during a visit to Dehradun in 2016 had said that relaxation in height would be implemented on pri ority, which had been reiterated by Army chief General Bipin Rawat. The demand for height relaxation for applicants to the armed forces has been raised often by local politicians and MPs in the past.
The Army has different height requirements for separate regions. The eastern Himalayan region has a minimum height requirement of 160cm. For western plains region the minimum height required is 170cm, while it is 169cm for eastern plains. The height requirement is 168cm and 166cm for central & southern regions respectively .
Increase in number of aspirants in pre-recruitment training camps
The Indian Army's decision to reduce the minimum height requirement for recruits from Himalayan states has resulted in a substantial increase in the number of aspirants applying to pre-recruitment training camps, with the figure shooting up by as much as 30% in Uttarakhand alone.
The Army had in August reduced the height criteria from 166cm to 163cm for recruits from the western Himalayan regions of J&K, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab as well as Garhwal and Kumaon in Uttarakhand. The impact of the new rule has been “immediate and drastic“, say organizers of prerecruitment training camps in Uttarakhand.
An Army recruitment official (ARO) on condition of anonymity told TOI that the number of applicants to the Army had indeed risen.“Approximately 18,000 youths had appeared in the recruitment drive held by the Army in Gauchar in Chamoli district in April while 22,000 aspirants lined up at the recruitment drive in Dehradun in October.Several young men who had been rejected in previous drives after failing the height criteria participated in the latest recruitment exercise.“ This was the first recruitment drive conducted by the Army in Uttarakhand after the new height rule came into effect from October 1.
Col Ajay Kothiyal, principal, Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, who also founded the Youth Foundation Uttarakhand which organizes pre-recruitment training camps, told TOI, “After the Army eased the minimum height requirement in August, the number of applicants to pre-recruitment camps went up by 30% in September. In the next camp in November, we are expecting 70% more applications to pour in. Many people in remote areas are still unaware about the reduction in height criteria which is why we are expecting the percentage to increase further.“
Suraj Negi, member, Youth Foundation Uttarakhand, added, “Recruitment drives are held twice a year by the Army . The next one will be in March or April 2018 and cover districts of Uttarkashi, Rudraprayag, Chamoli and Tehri, so many more people are expected to apply .“
Amit Kumar, 20, from Pauri, is among the lucky ones to have passed the physical test conducted by the Army in Gauchar after the height rule was eased. “I was rejected twice since I'm 165cm tall. I was elated after I heard that the minimum height requirement has been reduced and I applied again.“
Sexual harassment, discrimination
2015-17: 12 complaints
A dozen women officers in the armed forces have lodged complaints of harassment and discrimination over the last two years, even as the government is working towards increasing more avenues for women in the Army , Navy and IAF.
Stating this in a written reply in Rajya Sabha on Tues day , minister of state for defence Subhash Bhamre said six cases of harassment and discrimination against women officers have been recorded in the Army since 2015. The Navy had three such cases, while IAF had two. Another such case took place in the military medical and nursing stream last year.
Women constitute a miniscule minority in the overwhelmingly male-dominated environs of the 14lakh strong armed forces, even though they are being commissioned as officers since the early-1990s.
Women officers currently number just 3,578 of the 66,044 officers in the three Services. There are also 1,288 women doctorsdentists as well as 4,094 nursing officers in the armed forces.
Over 1,110 soldiers, airmen and sailors took the extreme step of ending their lives in the last decade, once again underlining the urgent need for much better suicide prevention interventions in the over 14-lakh strong Indian armed forces.
The defence ministry says several measures have been taken over the years to reduce stress among military personnel, ranging from counselling, yoga and grievance redressal mechanisms to improvements in food, clothing, married accommodation and a liberalised leave policy.
But clearly, much more needs to be done. Latest figures show there were over 895 suicides in the over 12-lakh Army in the 2010-2019 time-frame, followed by 185 and 32 in the much-smaller IAF and Navy respectively.
Mental stress among military personnel, especially among active-duty ones, is a global problem. The US military forces, for instance, are grappling with a record high suicide rate, with 541 cases in 2018. The suicide rate among active-duty troops was 24.8 per 100,000 personnel, up from 21.9 in 2017.
While the suicide rate in Indian Army works out to just about half of India’s rate of 16.5 suicides per 100,000 people, it is nevertheless worrying in the highly-disciplined environs of the force because suicides can be largely prevented through effective intervention policies.
Soldiers don’t have to deal with abject poverty, unemployment, farming distress or other factors that make India’s civilian suicide rate the highest in south-east Asia, as per the World Health Organisation. But protracted deployment along the volatile border with Pakistan as well as counter-insurgency operations in Jammu & Kashmir and the north-east do take a toll on the mental health and physical endurance of soldiers. Soldiers posted in forward or ‘field areas’ also undergo tremendous stress for not being able to take care of problems facing their families back home, which could range from property disputes and harassment by anti-social elements to financial and marital problems. “Earlier, news from the home front came periodically. Now, they get updates 24x7 through mobile phones, which have certainly added to the rise in stress levels,” a senior officer said.
A study by the Defence Institute of Psychological Research (DIPR) some years ago had noted that “perceived humiliation and harassment, over and above their occupational and familial causes”, at the hands of their superiors often served as the final “trigger” for soldiers to commit suicide, as was then reported by TOI.
The defence ministry says “domestic and personal problems, marital discord, stress, health issues and financial problems” have been identified as “major causes” behind suicides in the armed forces in several studies conducted by DIPR since 2006.
597 military personnel have committed suicide in last 5 years, government says
The Times of India Rajat Pandit,TNN | Jul 22, 2014
NEW DELHI: The suicide toll in the highly-disciplined armed forces continues to cross the 100-mark year after year despite all the so-called measures being undertaken by the defence establishment to reduce stress among soldiers.
As many as 597 military personnel committed suicide in 5 years between 2009 and 2013.
Disclosing these figures in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, defence minister Arun Jaitely said, "The government has taken various measures to create an appropriate environment for defence personnel, so that they can perform their duty without any mental stress."
These measures, said Jaitley, include improvement in living and working conditions through provision of better infrastructure and facilities, additional family accommodation, liberalized leave policy, a grievance redressal mechanism, psychological counseling and conduct of yoga and meditation as part of a battalion or unit's routine.
But the steps do not seem to be working very well on the ground.
In the Army, by far the largest of the three services, for instance, 116 soldiers committed suicide in 2010, 105 in 2011 and 95 in 2012. Last year, while 86 soldiers committed suicide, the figure for airmen and sailors stood at 15 and 6.
As reported by The Times of India earlier, stress-related cases in the shape of suicides and "fragging" (to kill or wound a fellow-soldier or superior) incidents have shown no signs of abating, and often also lead to disquiet and "clashes between officers and jawans.
Soldiers posted in far-flung areas often undergo tremendous mental stress for not being able to take care of the problems being faced by their families back home, which could range from property disputes and harassment by anti-social elements to financial and marital problems.
While prolonged deployment in counter-insurgency operations in J&K and northeast also takes a toll on the physical endurance and mental health of soldiers, it's compounded by poor salaries, lack of basic amenities, ineffectual leadership and sometimes humiliation at the hands of their officers.
Though former defence minister AK Antony had repeatedly asked state chief ministers and Union Territory lieutenant governors to make their civil district administrations more responsive to grievances of soldiers and their families, the situation remains almost the same.
2012-15: 100+ suicides every year
The Times of India, Dec 12 2015
Armed forces still record at least 100 suicides every year
The armed forces continue to lose around 100 personnel to suicides every year despite all the so-called measures being undertaken by the defence establishment to reduce stress among soldiers. As many as 413 military personnel have committed suicide just since 2012, minister of state for defence Rao Inderjit Singh told Lok Sabha on Friday . The suicide toll in the 1.13-million strong Army was 334 soldiers since 2012, while the number stood at 67 for IAF and 12 for Navy .
“The major reasons for such incidents include occupational hazards, family issuesdomestic problems, perceived grievances, personal issues, mental built, financial problems and inability to withstand stress,“ said Singh.
As reported by TOI earli er, stress-related cases in the shape of suicides and “fragging“ (to kill a fellow-soldier or superior) incidents have shown no signs of abating and often also lead to disquiet and “clashes“ between offi cers and jawans. The Army ncidentally , has seen eight cases of fragging since 2012.
Soldiers posted in far-flung areas often undergo tremen dous mental stress for not be ng able to take care of the problems being faced by their families back home, which could range from property disputes and harassment by antisocial elements to financial and marital problems.
Prolonged deployment in counter-insurgency operations in J&K and northeast also takes a toll on the physical endurance and mental health of soldiers. All this is also compounded by poor salaries, lack of basic amenities, ineffectual leadership and sometimes humiliation at the hands of their officers. Singh said the government has taken several measures to prevent such incidents, with a large number of officers having being trained as counsellors. “The measures include improvement in living and working conditions through provision of better infrastructure and facilities; additional family accommodation; liberalised leave policy; establishing a grievance redressal mechanism; provision of counselling; conduct of yoga, meditation as part of the unit routine etc,“ he said.
But they have not proved very effective in stemming the suicide rate. In the Army , 69 soldiers have already committed suicide this year, while 13 airmen have also taken their lives in the IAF.
“One of the biggest worries for jawans is the hardships their families face back home. With mobile phones, our jawans keep on getting constant updates from their families, which adds to their mental stress and strain,“ said an officer.
Accident injury is not war injury: AFT
Chandigarh: Injuries must be suffered in “action” or “battle” and injury caused by an accident would not be treated as a war injury for grant of “War Injury Pension”, the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has said in an order.
The tribunal made the distinction while dismissing the plea of former havildar Ashok Kumar, who had sought War Injury Pension, after an accident while installing a generator in Siachen in 1993 left him without his right hand’s little finger. He has been given disability pension.
“For grant of War Injury Pension, besides the accidental injuries being sustained in an operational area, the injury should be sustained by an action. The dictionary defines action as expenditure of energy, deed, operation, gesture, or battle lawsuit. In action would . . mean. . engaged in battle. Mere presence in an operational area would not qualify as action,” the AFT’s Lucknow bench held.
The bench of Justice Umesh Chandra Srivastava and vice-admiral Abhay Raghunath Karve clarified that there should be a direct and causal connection between the duties and the cause of accident or death. This cannot be read in isola- tion and needs to be read in its full context.
Kumar, enrolled in June 1985, was with the Signal regiment on the Pakistan border in Siachen when the army launched Operation Rakshak-II in October 1993. He was seriously injured along with others in installing the electric generator.
After Kumar’s finger was removed, the medical board and the court of inquiry attributed his disability to military service and he was granted disability pension — in the low medical category — after retiring in April 2004. However, Kumar claimed he was entitled to War Injury Pension and approached the AFT.
The AFT dismissed his plea. It observed: “The applicant has not produced any document which can ascertain that his disability was due to participation in the war. ”
SC, 2020: Permanent commission in non-battlefield; eligible for command
SC: Permanent Commission Is Extended To All In Non-Combat Roles
Twenty-eight years after they first entered the Army, women officers broke an armour-plated ceiling when the Supreme Court ordered grant of permanent commission (PC) in 10 nonbattlefield services in three months and held them to be eligible to hold command posts.
The government had a little over a year ago granted PC to newly recruited women officers in these services, but not those short service commission (SSC) officers already in the force. The SC verdict extends it to all.
The decision of the bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Ajay Rastogi to trash the Army’s “weaker sex” argument was a fitting finale to the 14-year-old litigation for equality doggedly fought by short service commission (SSC) women officers through senior advocates Meenakshi Lekhi and Aishwarya Bhati. The battle was first waged in the Delhi HC from 2006 to 2010 — which the women officers won — and then in the SC from 2010 till date. Importantly, it said those women officers who do not opt for permanent commission despite 14 years of service “will be entitled to continue in service until they attain 20 years of pensionable service”.
SC irked at bid to stereotype women as the ‘weaker sex’
Women SSC officers shall be entitled to exercise their options for being considered for grant of permanent commission on the same terms as their male counterparts,” the bench said. Short service commission is up to 14 years. Rejecting the Army’s argument against grant of command posts to women officers on the ground that the forces were not sociologically trained to serve under women, the bench said, “The blanket non-consideration of women for criteria or command appointments, absent an individuated justification by the Army, cannot be sustained in law.”
It upheld the defence ministry’s February 25, 2019, decision to grant permanent commission to SSC women officers in Signals, Engineers, Army Aviation, Army Air Defence, Electronics and Mechanical Engineers, Army Service Corps, Army Ordinance Corps and Intelligence, Judge Advocate General and Army Education Corps. Chandrachud said the decision to exclude women officers from holding command posts, determined on the basis of an individual’s performance, was indefensible. “If the Army has cogent reasons for excluding women from a particular criteria or command appointment, it may provide them to relevant authorities and if necessary, to future courts,” it said.
Chandrachud said, “The decision of the Union government to extend the grant of permanent commission (to women officers) in support arms and services recognises that the physiological features of a woman have no significance to her equal entitlements under the Constitution.” Referring to senior advocate R Balasubramanian’s argument on behalf of the Army, the SC frowned at attempts to stereotype them as the “weaker sex”.
Liberalised family pension to continue after remarriage
Castigated by courts for following “derogatory and draconian policies”, the defence ministry has scrapped an archaic rule that restricted payment of monetary allowances to a gallantry award winner’s widow if she re-married someone other than her late husband’s brother.
“The government, after considering the issue and receiving several representations, has now decided to remove the condition of the widow’s remarriage with her late husband’s brother for continuation of the monetary allowance,” a defence ministry official said on Tuesday. The move will restore the gallantry award’s monthly allowances for many women in the country. It comes after the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) rapped the government in an appeal filed by Janak Anand, whose husband Captain S C Sehgal was awarded a Vir Chakra for exhibiting unusual courage while laying down his life in the 1971war just a few months after their marriage.
Though Janak continued to get “liberalised family pension” as Captain Sehgal’s widow, her allowance for the Vir Chakra was stopped after she married another Army officer, Major Dipak Anand, in October 1974.
The rule, reinforced by a letter issued by the defence ministry on January 31, 1995, said, “The widow will continue to receive the allowance until her re-marriage or death. The payment of the allowance will, however, continue to a widow who re-marries the late husband’s brother and lives a communal life with the living heir eligible for family pension.”
Widow remarriage rule for pension overruled
The Armed Forces Tribunal has declared regulations that deprive a soldier’s widow of liberalised family pension (LFP) if she remarries anyone other than her husband’s brother as void, terming these “highly discriminatory” and a violation of public policy.
While the government did amend this policy after the Fifth Central Pay Commission’s recommendations in 1996, any deceased soldier’s wife entitled to liberalised family pension prior to that would be deprived of it in the event of remarrying someone other than her late spouse’s brother.
“A widow is competent and entitled to remarry according to her choice and will. The conditions preventing the remarriage of the widow or restricting her choice to marry to the late husband’s brother alone for claiming LFP will only be conditions imposed in restraint of marriage and hence, violate the public policy to be followed in respect of marriage. Therefore, those two conditions... are void as they are against the public policy in respect of marriage,” the tribunal ruled.
The tribunal’s Lucknow bench passed these orders while allowing an application filed by Girija Devi, whose husband Sepoy Shree Kishan, a native of village Surwari in Mathura district of UP, was killed in the 1971 war. The applicant had been granted special family pension from February 1, 1972, till her marriage on May 6, 1974. After remarriage, she was paid ordinary family pension. She filed a plea in October 2011, informing that the parents of the deceased soldier had died prior to 2006, but a liberalised family pension was not granted to her. She then approached the tribunal.
Defence services, India: personnel issues