Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, December 23
The Principal Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) today allowed a bunch of petitions seeking grant of non-functional upgradation (NFU) to all armed forces officers on similar lines as it was implemented for civil services in connection with the Sixth Pay Commission.
The AFT’s order marks a turning point in a long battle for parity that saw a lot of legal and bureaucratic wrangling. The NFU was among several issues involving benefits and status that the armed forces wanted to be addressed. Several issues are still to be resolved. Justice BP Katakey and Lt Gen Sanjiv Langer said the NFU for all officers of the three services would be applicable with effect from January 1, 2006, although the arrears would be restricted to three years from the date of the petition.
Disposing of the petitions filed by Col Mukul Dev from the Judge Advocate General’s Department and about 160 other officers, the Bench also directed that in case the government decided to include NFU for civilians under the Seventh Pay Commission, the same would also be extended to armed forces officers. The Bench also rejected the Union of India’s prayer for leave to appeal to challenge the order in the Supreme Court.
The NFU scheme, implemented by the UPA government in 2008, entitled IAS officers and other Group-A officers to get pay scale of the highest promoted officer of their batch even if they were not promoted. The affected non-promoted officers are given the higher grade two years after their batchmates are elevated.
Unlike civil services that have a cylindrical hierarchy, the armed forces have a pyramid structure and many officers do not make it to the next selection-based rank, making the issue of stagnation much more severe in the forces.
On implementation, the NFU was not extended to the armed forces and a few other organisations. The central armed police forces also got NFU after intervention by the Delhi High Court.
“The judgment implies that officers of the armed forces, whose status had been downgraded as their civilian counterpart started drawing higher salary and grade pay, will now be restored,” Col Rajiv Manglik, the petitioner’s counsel said. “Besides averring that the denial of NFU was unconstitutional and a violation of the principle of equality, we had contended that the armed forces fulfilled all six parameters laid out by the government to categorise Group-A services.” There are several civilian cadres that do not meet all parameters but have still been classified as Group-A services.
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