Chandigarh, 21 September
Notwithstanding an “advice” from the Ministry of Military Affairs not to promote officers of the low medical category (LMC), the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) on Wednesday ordered the Army to medically review the cases of 17 officers with the ranks of colonel and lieutenant colonel who were eligible for promotion to the next higher class but were not promoted for medical reasons.
The officers belonged to the eligible low medical category with certain employment restrictions, e.g. B. not to be transferred to altitudes above 9,000 feet. Based on their service records, a duly constituted selection committee had determined in March 2021 that these officers were eligible for promotion to the next rank.
However, a subsequent Special Review Medical Board (SRMB) held in June 2021 declared her ineligible for promotion, despite the favorable recommendation of a Medical Board composed of concerned board members, subject to certain employability limitations, and their supervisors had consistently assessed those officers as eligible for promotion.
The SRMB’s decision was based primarily on a note dated January 7, 2021, written by the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) under the direction of the late Chief of Defense Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, “recommending” that Army Headquarters no low-to-promote medical category officers with employability limitations, regardless of their eligible medical category under the existing policy.
The notice was issued with no amendment to the existing promotion policy, which allows such LMC officers to be promoted and appropriately appointed at higher ranks consistent with their medical category and employability limitations imposed by the relevant medical association,” Col Indra Sen Singh (retd) , advisor to some of the petitioners said.
“The SRMB has not recorded any reason why these officers were declared unfit for promotion. By 2021, officials in similar eligible medical categories have rarely been denied boarding if they have already been approved by the relevant selection committee,” he added. The petitioners also claimed that in most of these cases, the injury or illness that brought officers to LMC was either caused or aggravated by their military service.
The bench of the tribunal, consisting of Judge Rajendra Menon and Lt. Gen. PM Hariz, overturned the SRMB procedure declaring these 17 officers ineligible for promotion and ordered the army to reconstitute a new SRMB to address their cases to be reconsidered on the basis of the applicable guidelines by 2020 without taking into account the advice of the DMA from January 2021.
The Panel further ordered that the SRMB should be guided by the promotion policy up to the year 2020 in reviewing these officers for promotion and that any policy change based on the DMA’s comment should be made only after due consideration.