Supreme Court stays AFT order on rank reversion of army officer

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New Delhi, May 30 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Monday stayed an Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) order directing the reversion of Maj. Gen. N.K. Mehta (now lt. gen.) of the Army Ordnance Corps to the rank of brigadier.

A vacation bench of Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Justice Amitava Roy also stayed the AFT order imposing a cost of Rs.50 lakh on the defence secretary, the army chief and the military secretary.

Besides this, the court also stayed the cost of Rs.5 lakh that the Lucknow bench of AFT had imposed on Mehta. Besides others, the court issued notice to Maj. Gen. Rathore, who had moved the AFT, on the central and Mehta’s plea challenging the tribunal’s May 13 order.

It also put on hold observations in the AFT order that adversely impacted the authority of the central government to examine the annual confidential reports (ACRs) of high-ranking defence officers.

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The court order staying the reversion of Mehta, imposing of costs and other observations came as Attorney General Mukul Rohati urged the court to stay the operation of the AFT order as such an order had far reaching consequences for the armed forces.

On being asked by Justice Roy as to what would remain if court was to “trim” the parts of the order which he wanted to be put on hold, he said that whether Mehta “sinks or swims” in the matter, Rathore stood no chance of becoming a lt. general as he was retiring on Tuesday.

Rohatgi told the court that both Rathore and Mehta were prompted from brigadier to major generals and it was only in 2015 when the former realised that he would not rise to the next rank that he sought to eclipse the chances of Mehta by digging up the issue of then Brig. Mehta’s reporting officer not filling the two columns of his ACR.

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Appearing for Rathore, counsel Aishwarya Bhati urged the court not to stay the AFT order as it would amount to Rathore, after succeeding on merit, law, concealment of fraud, and the collusion of other side, yet going home empty-handed. She said what was at stake was the Rs.20,000 crore budget of the ordinance corps.

Bhati told the court that it was erroneous to say that the marks of the officer at the brigadier level were not counted for promotion as lt. general

An earlier order of reversion of Mehta by the AFT passed on February 17, 2016 was stayed by the apex court on March 18, 2016 as it asked the tribunal to consider a plea for review of its February 17 order.

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However, the AFT, by its May 13 order, reiterated its earlier order of reversion of Mehta and also imposed a cost of Rs.5 lakh on him and Rs.50 lakh on the top defence functionaries.

The court directed the further hearing of the matter in August.



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