Army air defence, engineers and signal to get additional colonels posts, SC told

New Delhi, Oct 29 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the government to spell out its timeline for the implementation of 141 additional posts of colonels that it has now decided to add to the air defence artillery, engineers and signals corps after agreeing to reduce their command postings tenure from existing four years to three years.

A bench of Justice T.S.Thakur and Justice Kurian Joseph asked the government to tell it about the period during which the strength of the colonel rank officers would be augmented by 141 additional positions after court was informed that government has accepted the suggestion by it (court) to reduce the command tenure there.

Telling the court that government would first create the additional positions of colonels for better promotional avenues, Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh told the court that the army may still retain a commanding officer beyond his tenure to meet operational requirements.

However, he made it clear that it would not be at the expense of 141 new posts that will now be added in these three wings.

The court took exception to Singh saying that the proposed creation of 141 posts for three corps was to correct the “bonafide mistake” but would come into force prospectively and not from back date as it was likely to create problems.

Telling him that people who have suffered from the “bonafide mistake” have to be restored to the position where mistake does not lie, the court said that the “mistake has to be corrected from January 2009 from where it had started”.

It said that either government has to do this voluntarily or it would order so, and as all the affected officers are in service, it would not pose any problem in introducing additional posts and considering them for next promotion.

The court is hearing the Centre’s appeal against Armed Forces Tribunal’s March 2 order, by which it had quashed January 21, 2009 “command and exit” policy which weighed in the favour of infantry, mechanised infantry and the armoured corps, saying that it was violative of the constitution’s article 14 (equality before law).

The bone of contention is government policy of 2009 which earmarked more posts of colonel for the armed wing of army – infantry, mechanised infantry, armoured corps, artillery, air defence artillery, engineers and signals – so that they may have a commanding officer at the age of 37 years and exiting after 2-1/2 year tenure with no repeat appointment.

Under this policy, 1,484 posits of colonel were created – 750 in 2004 – which according to government were erroneously distributed by the army headquarter across the army on pro-rate basis.

However, in 2009, 734 posts of colonel under the “command and exit” policy were earmarked exclusively for the armed wing of the army.

The hearing will continue on November 19.

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