SC upholds army’s ‘command and exit’ policy

New Delhi, Feb 15 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the Indian Army’s “command and exit” policy giving priority to infantry and artillery for promotion as colonel, as it asked the government to create another 141 colonel posts.

Upholding the 2009 “command and exit” policy, the bench comprising Chief Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice Kurian Joseph partially allowed the Centre’s plea against the Armed Forces Tribunal’s (AFT) March 2015 order setting aside the policy as being violative of Article 14 (equality before law) of the Constitution.

“Tribunal order set aside. Appeal allowed partially. Union of India will create 141 posts of colonel which it had promised,” Chief Justice Thakur said.

The court set aside the March 2, 2015, order of the AFT which had, while quashing the January 21, 2009, “command and exit” policy, had held that it was weighed in favour of infantry, mechanised infantry and the armoured corps in combat area.

The policy was brought to have a younger profile of the command structure in the field as it was felt that during the Kargil war, the response of the army was “sluggish”.

The thrust of the “command and exit” policy, which earmarked more posts of colonel for the armed wing of the army — infantry, mechanised infantry, armoured corps and artillery — so that they may have a commanding officer at the age of 37 years and exiting after two-and-half-year tenure with no repeat appointment.

Under this policy, 148 posts of colonel were created — 750 in 2004 — which according to the government were erroneously distributed by the army headquarters across the army on pro-rata 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 AFT by its order said the government would create supernumerary posts to accommodate Lt. Col. P.K. Choudhary and other officers, who were denied promotion on the basis of the “command and exit” policy.

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