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SC orders review of IAF promotions
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, December 13
In a major setback to the Indian Air Force (IAF), the Supreme Court today ordered it to re-evaluate the promotions of all six officers, including the four quashed by the Delhi High Court recently. It said the promotions should be considered by taking into consideration the 5 per cent “discretionary” board marks rather than 20 per cent hiked by the February 2003 Special Promotion Board (SPB).

A Bench of Mr Justice Y.K.Sabharwal and Mr Justice P P Naolekar further directed that the results of the fresh promotion process, be submitted in “sealed cover” to the Court within three weeks.

This would enable the apex court to examine whether promotions of four Air Vice Marshals (AVM) to the rank of Air Marshal (AM) and denying it to the two other officers was in accordance with the rules.

The direction came on an appeal by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), challenging the High Court judgement quashing the promotions of A.D. Joshi, J.S. Gujral, F.H. Major and A.K. Singh to the rank of AM, while allowing the petitions of AVMs, Harish Masand and T.S. Chhatwal.

They had challenged the promotions on the ground that the SPB of February 2003, had raised the discretionary “board marks” to 20 per cent from 5 per cent due to which the rating of four promoted officers was raised, while it was brought down in their cases.

Chhatwal had alleged that his appraisal report (AR) was “fudged” and his rating of “eight-plus” marks out of 10 was brought down to 5.5 level, throwing him out of consideration for promotion to “selection post” for which minimum 6 marks out of 10 were mandatory as per rules.

When Solicitor-General G E Vahanvati, appearing for MoD, contended that Masand was not considered for promotion because there was “censure order” against him on June 1, 2001, for ignoring certain financial irregularities of his subordinate officers, the Court said why the same was not held against him when he was promoted to the rank of AVM.

Taking a serious view of the manner the IAF had dealt with the promotion issue, the Court said “Less said is better about what is happening in the MoD and the IAF. Such happenings will have a demoralising effect on officers and it is well reflected in the High Court order.”

If there was “censure order” against Masand, why the same was not brought out to the notice of the High Court, the Bench asked.

As Masand’s counsel said it was strange that the IAF was raising the “censure” issue now but did not think it necessary to consider when he was promoted to the rank of AVM, Vahanvati contended that at that time the order for promotion had been issued prior to the censure order.

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