Feel free to contribute on burning issues concerning the armed forces. Contributions would be acknowledged - Use the 'Comments' tab or email navdeepsingh.india[at]gmail.com. No operational/business/commercial matters to be discussed please. Legal advice/litigation related issues would strictly NOT be published or discussed or entertained. Information on this blog is opinion based and is neither official nor in the form of an advice. This is a pro bono online journal in public service related to issues, policies and benefits, and the idea behind it is to educate and not to create controversy or to incite. Be soft in your language, respect Copyrights.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Maimed by the System: visit www.navdeep.info for discounted links

Visit www.navdeep.info for discounted links

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Not so good news from the Supreme Court for pre-1996 retiree Majors with 21 years of service

There is unfortunate news from the Supreme Court with respect to the case of pre-1996 retired Majors with 21 years of service who had claimed the pension of Lt Col and whose cases were allowed by various benches of the Armed Forces Tribunal.

The Supreme Court, while hearing certain appeals filed by the Government and others filed by some affected officers, has held that the said benefit is not available to those who retired prior to 1996. It may be recalled that the controversy had emerged from the situation wherein Majors who retired with 21 years or more commissioned service after 01-01-1996 had been granted the pension as admissible to the rank of Lt Col, while those who retired prior to 01-01-1996 with similar length of service, were being paid the pension of a Major. 

The Supreme Court has agreed with the arguments of the Union of India that the stipulation of grant of the scale of Lt Col to Majors with 21 years or more service was only available to those who were in service as on 01-01-1996 as per the Govt orders issued in 1997 and it dealt with pay and not pension and that also the Govt had itself equalized pensions of pre-1996 and post-1996 retirees in the year 1999. The Court has also relied upon an earlier decision in Col BJ Akkara Vs Union of India of the year 2006 in reaching the said conclusion.

I however personally feel that the following aspects were not placed before the Hon’ble Supreme Court during the course of the examination of the issue:

A.    The anomaly did not actually flow from the Govt letter on pay of the year 1997 but emanated from later letters issued in the years 2012, 2013 and 2015 (with financial effect from 2006) wherein it was provided that Majors with 21 years of service who retired between 1996 and 2006 would be granted the pension of a Lt Col while those who retired prior to 1996 would continue receiving the pension of a Major. Hence, the controversy did extend to pension and was not restricted to pay.

B.    The equalization of pension as professed by the Govt of India before the Supreme Court came to an end with effect from 2006, that is, from the 6th Central Pay Commission regime. As on date, the basic pension of Majors with 21 years of service retiring after 1996 is Rs 81,502 while those retiring prior to 1996 is Rs 58,673. Hence the pension equation letter of 1999 cited by the Govt before the Court became redundant with effect from 2006 based upon the above mentioned pension letters issued in the years 2012, 2013 and 2015 which were not brought to the knowledge of the Court. Till the 6th Central Pay Commission, there was no disparity or negligible disparity due to overlapping scales. There has been no discussion or argument on the fact of issuance of letters issued by the Govt at later stages disturbing the equalisation of pension. The net result is the difference of pension, not pay, as reflected by the above figures. The net result also is that officers of the same rank retiring with the same length of service but during different periods have been saddled with a vast difference in pensions.

C.   In Col BJ Akkara’s case, relied upon by the Govt, the Govt had not placed full facts before the Court and the said case was later distinguished by the Supreme Court itself in Civil Appeal 10640/2013 KC Bajaj Vs Union of India decided on 27-11-2013 when the Court came down heavily upon the Govt for its incorrect stand and also for not projecting the correct facts. After this decision, the effect of Col BJ Akkara’s case was then nullified by the Govt itself by issuing letters granting the benefit to affected pre and post 1996 retirees based upon the later ruling of the Supreme Court in KC Bajaj’s case. The benefits were also extended to those officers of the defence services who were earlier refused the same after the decision in Col BJ Akkara’s case. This issue was explained earlier in this blog here. The later decision in KC Bajaj’s case has not been brought to the notice of the Court.

D.   The Court has not been apprised of the similar decision in Civil Appeal 1123/2015 State of Rajasthan Vs Mahendra Nath Sharma decided on 01-07-2015 which dealt with a similar controversy of pensioners of the State of Rajasthan wherein the issue was decided in favour of pensioners where also the State was claiming that the benefits were only applicable to pensioners who were in service on a particular date in the State.

The important points as above were argued and considered in various decisions by the Chandigarh Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal, including in the case titled Maj Tarlok Singh Vs Union of India (not challenged by the Govt till now), but were perhaps not before the Hon’ble Supreme Court since the judgements that the Apex Court was examining did not have these arguments or issues on record. As things stand now, the Supreme Court decision is binding on all authorities till the time perhaps the matter again reaches the Supreme Court in other decisions decided in favour of pensioners, as and when those are challenged by the Govt, and when all points can be brought before the Hon’ble Court in the right perspective by those representing the parties.

Also, to clarify, this decision however currently affects only pre-1996 retiree Majors with 21 years of service and not those Majors who retired between 01-01-1996 and 14-01-2000 with 20 years of service and were not granted the benefits of the rank of Lt Col due to late issuance of the Govt letter on 14-01-2000 and who were granted relief on judicial intervention. The said category of officers is not affected by this judgement.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Different Uniforms, Same Flag!

My reaction piece in the DNA on the recent stormy exchange between Major Gaurav Arya and Mr Abhinav Kumar, IPS :

Different Uniforms, Same Flag

Navdeep Singh

That the Police and the Army share commonalities, including the somewhat similar structure of rank badges, is something that cannot be ignored. But to expect the Police to be completely militarised or to follow the same ethos or training, or be officered by the military, as professed by some military veterans, in all humility, is an unreasonable idea.

This topic I tend to avoid but there was extensive debate on the subject recently, generated by a strong opinion piece authored by a former Army officer, matched by an equally solid retort by a serving officer of the Indian Police Service (IPS).

The reason for friction
One issue that continually disturbs officers of the military is faster promotions in the IPS and thereby the heavier and at times exaggerated brass on comparatively younger police shoulders. While true to a large extent, historical parities having been unduly disturbed and the military having slid down the pecking order, we still need to give it deeper thought, though no doubt much has been written on it, including by this author. The problem is not faster promotions in the IPS but the much slower career growth in the military due to a variety of reasons, and the solution to which shall remain vexed because of the requirement of maintaining a steep pyramid. Agreed that there is bound to be dejection when an IPS officer of the 2000 batch wears a Major General’s rank badges in 2018 while his military batch-mates are Lieutenant Colonels or at best Colonels, or when it is analysed that while the senior-most police officer in a State was equal to a Colonel or Brigadier at one time but today wears the ranks of a Lieutenant General, but then one cannot blame the IPS for having an optimum promotional and cadre management at par with other comparable government services, neither can one expect police officers to refuse promotions in order to please the military! Rather than such prestige battles, the government and the political executive must be convinced to render serious thought to the massive stagnation in the military and slower than satisfactory career advancement. Of course, certain lopsided recommendations of successive pay commissions haven’t helped. 

Different strokes for different folks
Much has been stated about the desirability of induction of former military officers and personnel in the state police to ‘improve’ it or training IPS officers in military academies or providing the command of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) to army officers. While this appears attractive at the first blush, one has to realise the fluffiness of such broad statements. Firstly, the job of the army and the police is dissimilar. While the former has to destroy the enemy, the latter has to protect the community. The similarities hence end at the ceremonial drill. While soldiers need to operate in groups with competent leaders, state police personnel are expected to work even as stand-alone entities and to apply mind to investigation and crime prevention with certain powers under law being similar for all “Police Officers”- from Constable to the Director General of Police. Moreover, the police involves public-dealing while the military operates on insulated terms. While the police is required to be trained in crowd control and often fires warning shots in the air, the military is trained to fire on target. Hence a military academy is not the apt place for learning skills of lathi charge or nuances of investigation or CrPC and IPC. Ditto for the CAPFs. Though there is certain overlapping of roles in the case of border guarding forces, there is no similarity between forces such as CRPF and the army, these are best officered with their own cadre or from the IPS since they are meant to operate in close coordination with the civil administration.

Turf battles
In the dynamic security scenario of date, there might be shared areas of operation, but that does not take away the core functionality of different forces. It shall be in the interest of all services and forces, who incidentally serve the same flag, to develop mutual trust and serve shoulder to shoulder when required. To be honest, the voices against the police are shriller from the side of some military veterans, who at times, do not realise that for political interference and systemic problems plaguing the police, individual personnel cannot be blamed and those individuals come from the same neighbourhoods as the military and neither are they carrying out less onerous duties. If a newly commissioned Lieutenant has to command his men in arduous conditions, a young Assistant Superintendent of Police has to look after the law & order of a complete Sub Division with multiple police stations, a job not less exacting. To compare with foreign police services is also not in order since in many nations the induction into the police is primarily at only one level, and personnel get promoted all the way up to apex police appointments, while in India recruitment is at four grades. With diffidence I submit that our military community must realise that ‘military training’ is not the magic wand for curing all ills and other professions play an equal role in nation-building. There are many in-house aspects that require honest introspection, than expending energy looking into shortcomings of others.

National interest ordains that all services must work together, hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder, to protect the concept of India. The political executive must however ensure that legitimate career expectations and social standing of the men & women in the military are not ignored and decisions on human management policies are taken in a well-rounded manner after due stakeholder consultation.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Coverage of “Maimed by the System (2018)”

Reproduced below is the coverage by various outlets of the revised edition of my book, Maimed by the System:

Worldwide purchase links, including discounted links, consolidated and listed at www.navdeep.info

Please read the book and ask others too :)

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Maimed by the System (2018) released today: Please read it!!!

The Second/Revised edition of my book was released today at Chandigarh by General VP Malik (Retired), former Chief of Army Staff.

The book is available at a discounted price for a limited period here (Use Discount Coupon COMPASSION).

All other worldwide purchase links, including kindle version, available at www.navdeep.info

Please share, and Yes, I WANT YOU ALL TO READ IT!!!




Thursday, January 18, 2018

My op-ed in Indian Express: The military women and the fight to be equal

The following op-ed authored by me appeared in The Indian Express:

The military women and the fight to be equal

Navdeep Singh

Paradoxically, more than the military establishment and policy makers, the concept of nari shakti in the defence services has been powered by Constitutional Courts. The Delhi High Court ruling that women cannot be denied entry into the Territorial Army, a unique organisation of volunteers who are otherwise engaged in civil occupations and who wear the uniform for a few days in year so that they can be called out during national emergencies, is the latest in the same vein.

Though I tend to concur that induction of women in the military has to come about in a phased manner with due thought and not merely as a sentiment of political correctness, I also feel that a little more flexibility by the establishment should be at display while opening its doors. The recent decision of the Government and the Army Chief regarding induction of women in ranks other than Commissioned officers, seems to be an apt step.

Initially inducted in the defence services only as Short Service Commissioned Officers with 5 years initial terms, extendable to a maximum of 14 years, it was the Delhi High Court in 2010 which directed the Government to consider them for permanent commission. The Government of the time chose to challenge the verdict in the Supreme Court where it still remains pending, but since a stay was not granted by the Apex Court, women officers continue to serve on the strength of the High Court decision. The stand of the official establishment wherein women were thought fit to serve for 14 years but not 20 years or more which would have entitled them to pension, and without any post-retirement occupational guarantee thereby leaving them at crossroads in the middle of life when requirement of subsistence is at peak, was, to put it softly, not a well-rounded stand. Things have changed since then with the military embracing more progressive policies, but rough edges still remain and the case remains pending in the Supreme Court.

The above apart, women have had to litigate at multiple stages for their rights. There was yet another case wherein the Delhi High Court in 2015 had ordered the Navy to consider its Short Service Women officers for Permanent Commission but again the verdict was challenged in the Supreme Court. The Punjab & Haryana High Court, in a landmark verdict on pregnancy rights in the military, had held that it was not proper for the Army Medical Corps to reject the candidature of a woman (where married women can join till the age of 45 and there is no training in a military academy) after her selection and asking her to undertake the entire procedure again, only because she happened to disclose that she was pregnant when she reported for duty. The Court opined that forcing a person to choose between a child and her employment had “no place in modern India.” Thankfully, the judgment was implemented without appeal.

What this shows is that there’s no easy road for women. While some grounds articulated by the establishment, such as induction for frontline combat, may well be quite valid and open to argument and then actions should not always be based upon political correctness or popular flavour, the situation needs redemption when resisting change becomes a default reaction and unfounded fears are injected in the minds of senior military brass or political executive to stall progress. For example, the oft repeated phrase ‘what would happen if a woman soldier is captured?’. Well, a soldier is a soldier and the fear of a war crime equally applies to male soldiers. Then the issue of women garnering postings in ‘peace’ areas while leaving tough or ‘field’ postings for men is raised. If true, then the answer to it is not resisting the induction of women but ensuring balanced personnel management policies, making it clear that equality is a two-way street and then strictly ensuring the same without fear or favour.

These issues are not simplistic, and the key, therefore, cannot be black & white, however a workable solution could be to decide these in a participative manner by study groups involving the defence establishment and also former and current women members of the military with the political executive then finally deciding upon policy. There are a few pointers that could be kept in picture. Firstly, whenever there is judicial intervention in matters of such policy, the default reaction should not be an appeal out of administrative egotism but introspection and ways to rationalize and harmonize the policy itself to the best extent possible. Secondly, decisions on women personnel must always be taken after due discussion with stakeholders by involving the military establishment and women members. Thirdly, regressive policies such as the Coast Guard seeking a certificate from women appointees that they shall not conceive more than twice during service, should be immediately reviewed. Fourthly, a cue should be taken from the experience of the Police and the Central Armed Police Forces where women have acquitted themselves well and have served in exacting circumstances in all ranks without any major hiccup.

These are times of exhaustive churning. Every military of every democracy has encountered vexed questions in this regard, but then like all other similar matters, the system self-adjusts. What seemed odd in the days of yore is pretty much a part of regular life today.

With the Chiefs of the Defence Services showing maturity in being open about accepting more women in the forces, the Prime Minister also calling for it, and the apex defence political appointment being held by a woman, there could not be a better time to initiate change and to review matters currently sub judice by identifying a meeting point. 

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Controversial order concerning military status withdrawn

The controversial order downgrading the status of military ranks vis-a-vis appointments held by officers of the Armed Forces Headquarters Civil Service (AFHQCS) issued on 18 October 2016, has been withdrawn on the directions of the Defence Minister.

The entire issue, with special reference to the abovementioned letter under question, was discussed earlier on this blog on 06 November 2017.

Many have asked about the correction of status equation of ranks other than commissioned officers. To put you at ease, the said letter did not affect the status equation at lower ranks and the said ranks continue to enjoy their status vis-a-vis other services as before. A post on the said subject was published earlier on 12 November 2008.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Confusion between Modified Assured Career Progression Scheme (MACP) and Military Service Pay (MSP) and the need to ignore unnecessary rumours and false hopes

There are certain messages floating on social and other media that the Supreme Court of India has passed directions to pay ‘Military Service Pay’ with effect from January 2006 rather than from 2008 as was granted by the Government.

This is incorrect and there are no such directions. People are probably confusing the recent judgment on Modified Assured Career Progression Scheme (MACP) with the concept of Military Service Pay (MSP). Even otherwise, de hors the absence of any such decision, no parallel can be drawn between the two issues.

As explained in the post of 12 December 2017, the Sixth Central Pay Commission had recommended the implementation of the ‘Modified Assured Career Progression’ Scheme (MACP) providing for the grant of three financial upgradations of pay at the gap of 8, 16 and 24 years of service in case of stagnation, for the defence services.

The Special Army Instructions (SAI) on the subject had also been issued with effect from 01 January 2006 and which contained therein the stipulation of MACP. However later, despite the existence of the said SAI, another fresh letter was issued by the Government stating that MACP will be prospectively implemented from 01 September 2008.

Hence ultimately, unlike other pay related modalities which were implemented with effect from 01 January 2006, MACP was implemented with effect from 01 September 2008, thereby not including in its scope the personnel who were released from service between the two dates. The Chandigarh Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) however ruled that the pay commission had granted all pay and pension related benefits from January 2006 and the prospective implementation was only effectuated for ‘allowances’ and hence MACP was also to be implemented from January 2006 since it pertained to upgradation of pay. While ordering so, the AFT had followed the decision of the Punjab & Haryana High Court which had earlier ruled upon the implementation of improved pay-scales of defence personnel from 1996 rather than 1997 in an anomaly emanating out of the Fifth Pay Commission. The decision of the AFT was challenged by the Government in the Supreme Court but the Apex Court dismissed the appeal filed by the Union of India thereby upholding the grant of MACP from 01 January 2006 rather than 01 September 2008.

The aspect to be noted however in the above is that in case of MSP, the pay commission had itself noted that it shall be applied prospectively without any arrears (Para 2.3.12 of the 6th Central Pay Commission Report). Further when the SAI 1/S/2008 was issued, while it applied benefits of all modalities from 2006 (including MACP), it had specifically stated in Paragraph 5(d) that arrears of MSP shall only be paid with effect from 01 September 2008. There was no such negative stipulation for MACP. Further MACP was a replacement for the earlier ACP while MSP was completely a new element.

Hence, as the above would show, while the MACP was applied from 2006 but later tacitly retrospectively withdrawn and made applicable from 2008- an action was at the heart of the debate in Courts, there was no such controversy with regard to MSP which was always meant to be paid prospectively from September 2008.

Though at the surface both issues might appear to be similar to the untrained eye, there is actually absolutely no parallel between the concepts of MACP and MSP, and hence it is in the interest of sanity to ignore messages being circulated that MSP arrears will be paid to all personnel with effect from 01 January 2006. One should avoid forwarding such messages since it may promote unnecessary litigation and propel false hopes.

The above is not in the form of legal advice but merely my humble opinion since a litigious society is not in anybody’s interest.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Important decision for ranks other than Commissioned Officers who retired between 01-01-2006 and 30-08-2008

The Sixth Central Pay Commission had recommended the implementation of the ‘Modified Assured Career Progression’ Scheme (MACP) providing for the grant of three financial upgradations of pay at the gap of 8, 16 and 24 years of service in case of stagnation.

Unlike other pay related modalities which were implemented with effect from 01 January 2006, the MACP was implemented with effect from 01 September 2008, thereby not including in its scope the personnel who were released from service between the two dates.

The Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) had however ruled that the pay commission had granted all pay and pension related benefits from January 2006 and the prospective implementation was only effectuated for ‘allowances’ and hence the MACP was also to be implemented from January 2006 since it pertained to upgradation of pay. While ordering so, the AFT had followed the decision of the Punjab & Haryana High Court which had earlier ruled upon the implementation of improved pay-scales of defence personnel from 1996 rather than 1997 in an anomaly emanating out of the Fifth Pay Commission.

The decision of the AFT was challenged by the Government in the Supreme Court but the Apex Court has dismissed the appeal filed by the Union of India thereby upholding the grant of MACP from 01 January 2006 rather than 01 September 2009. This will affect the pay and pensionary benefits of those personnel who retired during the said period. 

Overburdening the Supreme Court and blocking access to Justice: My oped for the DNA

My oped published in the DNA:


High Courts must not be regarded as stepping stones to onward appeals to SC

Navdeep Singh

It was heartening to note the statement of the President of India on occasion of the National Law Day stressing upon affordability and access to justice and expressing concern on judicial delays. Important issues indeed which bother all stakeholders, but unfortunately these aspects are like an unruly horse unwilling to be tamed for a variety of stated and unstated reasons. The leading reason being that the hierarchy of courts is now merely being used as a stepping stone to reach the Supreme Court as a routine rather than looking for quietus or culmination of litigation at much lower levels thereby leaving time and space for the SC for cases of general public importance or major constitutional issues.

In a federal structure, though it may come as a surprise to many, as far as certain powers are concerned, the High Courts and the Supreme Court are equal, with the HC in fact wielding a wider writ jurisdiction under Article 226 than the SC under Article 32. The SC does not even exercise superintendence over High Courts as HCs do over lower Courts. The superiority of jurisdiction of SC over HCs is primarily appellate when orders of the HC are challenged. The high majesty of High Courts however today is under threat since litigants opt to test every small error till the SC with the latter ending up exercising correctional jurisdiction than being granted the legroom to adjudicate major issues requiring its attention. Coupled with this there is the inexplicable system of providing direct appeals from certain tribunals to the SC in contravention of a Seven Judge Constitution Bench decision in L Chandrakumar’s case (1997). All this not only leads to delay, costs and overburdening of the highest Court of the land with innocuous and minor matters, but also results, at times, in seemingly conflicting decisions by different benches leading to lack of judicial certainty and judicial confusion for lower fora resulting in multiple little Supreme Courts within the SC, besides making justice extremely unaffordable and inaccessible for the citizenry, though, ironically, access to justice is a recognized fundamental right.

A Constitution Bench had this to observe in Bihar Legal Support Society vs CJI (1986):

“It may, however, be pointed out that this Court was never intended to be a regular court of appeal against orders made by the High Court or the sessions court or the magistrates....This extraordinary jurisdiction could be availed by the apex court for the purpose of correcting grave miscarriage of justice, but such cases would be exceptional by their very nature...We must realise that in the vast majority of cases the High Courts must become final even if they are wrong...We must, therefore, reconcile ourselves to the idea that like the apex court which may be wrong on occasions, the High Courts may also be wrong and it is not every error of the High Court which the apex court can possibly correct...this Court should not ordinarily, save in exceptional cases, interfere with orders granting or refusing bail or anticipatory bail, because these are matters in which the High Court should normally be the final arbiter.”

Indeed, a hierarchy of Courts is also required in every democracy. A multi-layered appellate or judicial review process is much desirable since judicial errors in appreciation or application of law cannot be ruled out. But the question only is whether all routes should ultimately lead to the SC?

Rather than embarking upon the concept of a Court of Appeal between the HC and the SC, as suggested by some, and which may require constitutional amendment, I would like to think that restoring the majesty of the HC back to what the Constitution envisaged, along with certain minor doable adjustments within the existing set-up, could help. The following ideas hence come to mind:

1. Introducing Intra-Court/Letter Patents Appeal from Single Bench decisions to Division Benches within the same HC for multiple and more jurisdictions rather than the very narrow scope as is prevalent.

2. Abrogating direct appeals from tribunals to the SC and instead Division Benches of HC exercising time-bound judicial review over all tribunals as also recommended recently by the Law Commission in its 272nd Report.

3. Supreme Court sitting in larger benches, if not en bloc, to prevent conflicting decisions and judicial uncertainty and exercising jurisdiction only in rarest of rare cases of grave miscarriage of justice, questions of law of general public importance, issues involving two or more States and matters of Constitutional interpretation and the scope thereof also defined as objectively as possible.

4. Restoring the Constitutional majesty of the HC as practically the highest court and preventing it from being used merely as a stepping stone for onward appeal to the SC.

While it would take some effort to return our Constitutional Courts to their true roles, to implement what the President expressed the greatest responsibility to reduce judicial burden as also needless litigation falls upon instrumentalities of the government which file appeals to the next judicial level without batting an eye at taxpayers’ expense not out of judicial necessity but due to egotism and a faux sense of prestige of certain personalities that is hurt on losing a case. The buck also stops at our community- the lawyers and bar associations, to ensure a well-balanced and well-oiled machinery where dispensation of justice is quick, affordable & accessible and a quietus is reached at the optimum level without prolonging the agony. I need not say more.