M A I N   N E W S

Government to move SC
Quashing of Air Marshals’ promotion
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 9
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) will file an appeal in the Supreme Court against the Delhi High Court order quashing promotion of four Air Marshals. In its order, the High Court had also indicted the Ministry and Air Force Chief of Staff S. Krishnaswamy for not acting “impartially” while dealing with the promotion process.

“We will move a Special Leave Petition (SLP) before the apex court against the order,” Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee said, commenting on yesterday’s judgement of the High Court on the writ petitions of Air Vice Marshals T.S. Chhatwal and Harish Masand, who had allegedly been denied promotion to the rank of Air Marshal by the February, 2003 Special Promotion Board (SPB).

Mukherjee, who was speaking to mediapersons during the 23rd Coast Guard Commanders’ Conference here, said the Ministry was considering to set up an Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) to deal with legal matters related to the personnel of the three Services.

He said Ministry’s legal experts were examining the details of the judgement and ... “we may then go in for filing an SLP in the apex court.”

The judgement of the High Court, details of which were available today, has reprimanded Krishnaswamy for not being impartial in the matter, saying that he could not “exonerate” himself from the obligation to be fair in promotion process.

“The least we can say is that respondent No.2 (Chief of Air Staff) cannot exonerate himself from the obligation to be fair and impartial as head of the Air Force,” observed the Bench of Justice Vijender Jain and Justice H.R. Malhotra in the judgement, allowing the writ petitions of Chhatwal and Masand.

Chhatwal and Masand had challenged the promotion of Air Marshals A.D. Joshi, AOC-in-C of Eastern Air Command; J.S. Gujaral, Deputy Chief of Air Staff; F.H. Major, Assistant Chief of Integrated Defence Staff (Operations); and A.K. Singh, Senior Air Staff Officer Western Air Command, on the ground that the IAF authorities had discriminated them.

The court has also indicted the Defence Ministry on the question of 2002 promotion policy, in which the SPB was authorised to award 20 per cent board marks whereas in the 2004 SPB, the board marks were again reduced to five per cent.

The higher board marks in 2003 SPB had paved the way for promotion of the four Air Vice Marshals and denying the same to Chhatwal and Masand, the court observed.

The court said in the Chhatwal’s case, only 37 marks were given to him out of 120 on the basis of the 20 per cent board marks by the SPB, which was “totally disproportionate, irrational, arbitrary and without basis” to his Appraisal Report (AR).

It was “malafide exercise of power” by the then Defence Secretary Subir Dutta and Krishnaswamy, who had “fudged” Chhatwal’s AR for a period between October, 2001 and September, 2002, accounted for the promotion process, the court said.

The judges said from the material placed before the court, it was clear that there was “someone who never wanted petitioner (Chhatwal) to be promoted”.

Though the court has not said anything directly against Dutta, who is now a member of the Union Public Service Commission, it left it open to the government to initiate an inquiry against him.

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