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HC quashes promotion of 4 Air Marshals
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, November 8
In a major setback to the Indian Air Force (IAF), the Delhi High Court today quashed the promotion of four Air Marshals as well as the entire procedure of the Special Promotion Board (SPB) of February, 2003, which had elevated them to the rank.

The Air Marshals affected from the order are: AOC-in-C of Eastern Command A.D. Joshi, Deputy Chief of Air Staff J.S. Gujral, Assistant Chief of Integral Air Staff (Operation) F.H. Major and Senior Air Staff Officer, Western Air Command, A.K. Singh.

Also quashing the 2002 promotion policy of the IAF, a Bench comprising Mr Justice Vijender Jain and Mr Justice H.R. Malhotra directed the IAF to convene another Special Promotion Board within four weeks to consider the cases of Air Vice-Marshals T.S. Chhatwal and Harish Masand, who had challenged the selection procedure.

“We hereby quash the recommendations of the Special Selection Board held in February, 2003, and also quash all appointments made pursuant to it,” the Bench ruled.

But the court made it clear that any appointment made under the 2002 promotion policy prior to the February, 2003, SPB, would not be affected by today’s order.

Air Vice-Marshals Chhatwal and Masand in their petitions had alleged that they were denied promotion by applying “wrong” selection standards by the SPB in February 2003.

Allowing their plea, the court said the 2002 promotion policy of the IAF and the February, 2003, SPB had violated Article 14 of the Constitution (providing for equal opportunity to all).

The SPB had “wrongly” given 20 per cent weightage to the board marks to the promoted officers as against the 5 per cent given in the 2004 SPB, the court held.

Air Vice-Marshal Chhatwal, who had set up a record of sorts by having 42 sorties in a day over Siachen amidst firing by Pakistani troops in 1984, in his petition had alleged that his appraisal report was “fudged” to deny him the promotion to the rank of Air Marshal, while Air Vice-Marshal Masand had accused the IAF authorities of “discriminating” against him while promoting two officers junior to him.

Reacting to the court order, the IAF said it would take necessary steps only after studying the details of the order.

“We have not yet got the detailed order as only the operative part of it was read out in the court. Appropriate course of action will be taken only after a detailed study of the judgement,” an IAF spokesman said.

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