Chandigarh, September 21
Setting aside an “advice” by the Department of Military Affairs not to promote officers placed in low medical category (LMC), the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) on Wednesday directed the army to medically review the cases of 17 officers of the rank of Colonel and Lieutenant Colonel who were eligible for elevation to the next higher but were not promoted on medical grounds.
The officers were in the promotable low medical category with certain employability restrictions such as not to be posted to high altitude areas above 9,000 feet. On the basis of their service record, a duly constituted Selection Board held in March 2021 had found these officers fit for promotion to the next higher rank.
However, a Special Review Medical Bord (SRMB) subsequently held in June 2021 declared them unfit for promotion, despite the positive recommendation of a medical board comprising of specialists concerned, subject to certain employability restrictions, and their superior officers having constantly assessed these officers fit for promotion.
The decision of SRMB was primarily based on a note dated January 7, 2021 written by the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) headed by the late Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Bipin Rawat, which had “advised” the Army Headquarters not to promote low medical category officers with employability restrictions irrespective of their promotable medical category under the existing policy.
The note was issued without amending the existing promotion policy which allows such LMC officers to be promoted and suitably employed in higher ranks commensurate to their medical category and the employability restrictions placed by the relevant medical board,” Col Indra Sen Singh (retd), counsel for some of the petitioners, said.
“The SRMB did not record any reason for declaring these officers unfit for promotion. Until the year 2021 officers in similar promotable medical category were seldom denied promotion if already approved by the relevant selection board,” he added. The petitioners also averred that in most of these cases, the injury or disease which placed the officers in LMC were either caused by or aggravated by their military service.
The Tribunal’s bench comprising Justice Rajendra Menon and Lt Gen PM Hariz set aside the SRMB proceedings wherein these 17 officers were declared unfit for promotion and directed the army to re-constitute a fresh SRMB to reconsider their cases on the basis of policy which was in force up to 2020 without taking into account the DMA’s note of January 2021.