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Monday, February 9, 2009

The much in news Border Roads Organisation (BRO / GREF) case : What is it about & what went wrong ?

Everything and nothing !

Before I start, I would like to clarify that I have nothing against the GREF or the MES and hold these organisations in high regard. For those who joined in late, certain sections of the media have carried reports that three flag rank military officers associated with the Border Roads Organisation (BRO / GREF) have been ordered to undergo 15 days’ imprisonment for Contempt of Court by a Single Bench of the Hon’ble Guwahati High Court. The same story is being circulated with impunity by some GREF and MES officers. But what has not been unfortunately highlighted is the fact that the said Single Bench order was immediately STAYED thereafter by a Division Bench of the Hon’ble High Court. Two minutes of fame perhaps for some, but unnecessary vilification of senior military brass and that too without verification of facts. Sad.

What is the basis of this ? I’ll try to explain in uncomplicated terms.

Organisations such as GREF are amenable to the Army Act subject to certain modifications. The disciplinary powers of various military ranks under the Army Act are extended to officers of such organisations under the authority of Section 4 of the Army Act. Notifications for the purpose of Section 4 are issued for all such forces like GREF, Assam Rifles, Civil GT Companies etc in which disciplinary powers of their own ranks are defined as against disciplinary powers of military ranks. This exercise is done as per administrative convenience and not qua status, protocol or equivalence. In February 2007, a similar notification under Section 4 of the Army Act, which was in fact restricted to the sole purpose of defining disciplinary powers, was issued by the Secretary of Border Roads Development Board (BRDB) in which a Superintending Engineer (Functional Scale) / SE (FS) of the GREF was shown equal to a full Colonel of the Army as far as disciplinary powers were concerned. Now this Section 4 notification was used by GREF officers to claim that SE was now equal to a full Colonel, which is just one side of the story. A writ petition was filed before the Hon’ble Guwahati High Court by an SE of GREF and the Hon’ble Court on the basis of the material before it allowed the writ petition on the foundation of a statement by the Border Roads Development Board (BRDB) made before the Court, and ordered the placing of the petitioner SE on a post equivalent to a full Colonel. The contempt petition in news was a result of non-compliance of the orders in the ibid writ petition. However, what may not have been highlighted by the BRDB (on which incidentally the MoD has no direct control) before the Hon’ble Court is the fact that such notifications for disciplinary powers are never undertaken for defining status or tenability. Some examples in the same vein would be :

As per Schedule ‘C’ of MoD notification vide SRO 329 dated 23 Sept 1960 as amended by SRO 364 dated 29 Nov 1973, Director General of Border Roads has been equated with a GOC-in-C for disciplinary purposes. Now would this mean that DGBR can claim equivalence with an Army Commander ??

A Senior Personal Assistant and an Asst Administrative Officer (Group-B/Class-II) has been equated with a Lieutenant (Group-A/Class-I) of the Army, would it mean that such officers can start claiming equivalence with a Lieut ??

As per MoD notification vide SRO 212 dated 30 July 1987, all Govt servants with a basic pay of more than Rs 2600 (4th CPC rates) irrespective of pay scale, rank and status have been equated with Group-A / Commissioned Officers, now would this give them an excuse to claim parity with Group-A / Class-I gazetted officers ??

The answer to all of the above would be in the negative.

That is why, immediately after the Hon’ble Court pronounced its verdict on the basis of the statement of the BRDB, a review or Letter Patents Appeal (LPA) should have been filed by the BRO authorities, which unfortunately, perhaps for reasons elucidated in the succeeding paragraphs, did not happen.

But the point to be noted here is that a ring-side analysis of the situation would reveal that the decision of the Hon’ble High Court was passed in personam and not in ‘rem’. Meaning thereby that only the person who filed the case before the Hon’ble Court could claim relief and such relief of the Hon’ble Court would not be made universally applicable to the organisation.

Coming back to the Contempt case which has already been stayed by a Hon’ble Division Bench of the Guwahati High Court. The Hon’ble Court has rightly observed in the Contempt directions that though modalities of such equivalence were not laid down by the Court but the authorities were bound by their statements and that neither a review was preferred nor an appeal was filed against the decision of the Hon’ble High Court (non filing of an appeal or a review is a glaring lacuna on the part of our legal advisors – perhaps because the officer in charge of the legal wing happens to be a GREF officer !). There is hence an immediate need also to file an appeal or a review with an application for condonation of delay in the main case so that the correct facts can be placed on record and the Hon’ble Court can be apprised of the situation in the actual rational perspective. The MoD and other powers that be should also be informed that the BRDB or for that matter the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (under which GREF functions) may be apprised that they cannot issue any such directions which de facto affect the status, command and control of the military set-up. To put it brusquely, the BRDB has no jurisdiction or brief to meddle in the military hierarchy and any decision taken or submission made in a Court of Law by the Board which directly or indirectly affects military ranks has to be ethically made in consultation with the MoD and the military and not in a one-sided manner. Circumvention of the status of Presidential military ranks by way of a piece of paper issued by an authority not directly dealing with the military should in no way be considered acceptable or appropriate.

Things had slipped out of control in this case, but I’m positive that the situation would be reined and damn well not repeated.

"You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try – Beverley Sills"


Pokar Ram said...

Dear Maj Navdeep,
An excellent reasoning with very good material back up. Hats off to you !!!

Anonymous said...

Maj Navdeep

Thanks for providing the wholesome and complete picture. In such cases, it is very easy to be swayed by false propaganda so it is important that such instances are brought out with correct perspective.

No organisation is perfect, if it was, it would have been a creationist organisation. Armed Forces too are not perfect and one can only hope that such instances provide us with evolutionary lessons.

Anonymous said...

Whole issue is that of double standards and coloured lense of military. They see root of every problem in civilians just like GOI rehtoric of Pak being involved in every matter that goes wrong. Taking court judgements in right spirit and their implementation appears to be against military ethos. Take any case, irrespective of its substance, the case is fought upto the last level (at the cost of sacrificing substantial resources and also against welfare of their own kith and kin). In the instance case (I have no stake in it and I do not intend to discuss merit of the case) a SE of about 26 years of service is seeking parity with col of 16 years service. After contesting the matter in the court the judgement is hard to swallow for contestants. If I am not wrong, military is raising similar arguments in their quest to get parity with IAS and IPS. Is it not double standards?

Anonymous said...

Excellent one!!!!!!!!!!that should shut up the exceptionally brave and valiant men at seema sadak bhavan who visit this blog masquarading as defence officers

Anonymous said...

I am surprised to see the protection given to the culprits for conempt of high court, keep aside the issue.

There seems to be something wrong with these chaps who do not even hold the constitutional authorities in proper regard.

This blog has always presented defence as such they are highly being victimised and are in pathetic and negigent condition.

Why such twisting?
Why not factual?

Navdeep / Maj Navdeep Singh said...

@Anony at 12.35

Oh my dear Sir, we are so sorry.

Please go ahead and provide us with your 'factual' or whatever. We are all waiting.

Don't shoot off your keys without analysing what has been stated in the post. Differ if you must but please atleast articulate your logic or arguments.

Anonymous said...


Great Guns !!!

& Bravo too !

Anonymous said...

Thanks Maj Navdeep for the post. Many times senior officers in the armed forces have faced embarrassment due to contempt of court. In this particular case, i could not understand by the write up that was it possible to see the contempt case coming and take pro-active steps to prevent the damage?

kmpods said...

Dear Maj Navdeep
I have been following your blog with interest for the last three days. thanks for the lucidity and the knowledge that i am getting. I hope to contribute positively.
Kudos to you for an excellently written piece.
Please keep up the good work. Regards

Anonymous said...

Preventing steps are that army recognise other organisations like MES and GREF. But here even maj navdeep will choose not to publish this comment. In last one month the credability of this blog has gone down drastically, because it is not a free bolg where logic prevails. But this is a site where comments are posted based on what suits a particular group of armed forces. That group is superceded Lt Cols. May God save our country.

Navdeep / Maj Navdeep Singh said...

@Anony at 7.22

Sorry to burst your bubble but only those comments are deleted from the blog which are personal in nature or in which harsh or anti-national language is used. If the credibility of the blog has gone down then please visit sites that in your opinion are credible.

Thank You.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous,

I think u got it all wrong when u chose to wrtie in the blog REEAD THE TITLE "Indian Military : Service Benefits and Issues". Hopefully u are educated enough to understand that all issues comcerning military are discusssed.

Insted of cribbing if u have anyu\ useful contribution, u are most welcome but just raising alrm is no use wolf would gulp u down


Unknown said...

Mr. Anon-Feb 10 7:22 AM
i agree with Viks.
who asked you to visit this blog?

Please Keep Off.

Anonymous said...


Suggest you only delete the matter that is objectionable and not the fact that there was a 'post' , that way all will know if a 'post' was deleted. Maybe you could let parts be that are not objectionable too !

Just a suggestion.

ashok said...


Anonymous said...

THE Case is still pending in ghy high court .

i want to clarify flg points in this regard of this case

BRDB is in full control of MOD for all administrative matters .
In the instant case all orders passed by BRDB were with full approval of competent authority of MOD
case was referred to uPSC , MOD
DOPT and opinion and necessary approval regarding equalency were obtained before filing affidevit in court or before issuing gazzette orders .
Even RM and RRM were consulted .

it is highly wrong to think that case was lost because advisors were GREF officers . the whole might of army officers was behind this case . it was not a one day affair . the whole original case and contempt proceddingS run more than three years .

all arguments propogated by maj navdeep given here , were alresdy given from three star generals side . even the advocate from army officer side was a senior retired
army officer . any body can read the judgement at length .it run in about 24 pages .
the original case was fought between govt of india and the aggrieved officer . the govt of india accepted the plea of office .
the onus of implementation was on three star general .

the contemp proceeding was taken lightly by general or its advisors
so it resulted in order of imprisonment of three senior army officers two lt general and one brigadier .

apppeal has been done and stay granted . still the case is being
fought with carelessness . the same arguments which were already rejected by court twice and against orders of govt india are being given .
it is feared that if court is not taken seriously it may result in a
disaster for army officers .the finer point here , which is not being understood is , the equvalency is not decided by army , it is decided by govt of india . the court in the instant case accepted the plea of govt india .
a mere stay does not mean winning or loosing the case .
the crime done by army general is not following the orders of govt india .
so what ever arguments are given by any body , there is very little hope for generals , unless they comply with govt of india orders .

i more thing i want to clarify here is that , the present case is contempt case and appeal is against 15 days imprisonment to generals or their status of compliance of govt order .
so irrerespective of outcome of this case the original govt order
which set the equavalency will remain in full force .

the status is
SE --- COL
EE --- MAJ

however in my personnel opinion the case is very week from army officers side .

Anonymous said...

MAJ(retd) Navdeep
I think you are misinforming your blog follower. Your argument stating that equivelency is for taking disciplinary purpose only under Army act which is wrong . Army feels like this but Govt of india does not mean so. Equivelency is for all purpose. The recent ruling on 320 sep 2011 of MOD( BRDB) duly approved by RM based on the subject Govt notificatio dater 12 feb 2007 defining equivelency ay be reffered in which a Brigedier in actng rank posted as cheif Engineer of CHETAK project of BRO was not allowed to take over charge. Because post of CE in GREF is equal to Maj Gen and with special permission it is permitted toi be held by regular Brig.
you may get BRDB order no 06/35/1990/GE1 dated 30 sept 2011 through your source. Your doubt about power of Govt will be cleared.

Anonymous said...

Please refer to the matter of Nagender Singh vs UOI of Jan 2010.
Hon'ble Delhi High Court, based on the affidevits made by the respondents, i.e. UOI clearly ruled that the equivalence in the famous notification of Feb 2007 is only for the purpose of Disciplinary powers under Army Act and not to be applied for any other purpose. Moreover, Grade pay has to be used for inter se seniority within a cadre and not between two cadres as per Cabinet decision post 6 CPC recommendations. Suffice to say that original equivalence given in BR regulations still holds good.The Gauhati High Court judgement indeed was personal in nature and the latest Delhi High Court decision is clearly applicable across the board.
-Bald Eagle.

kumar said...

dear readers,

this is to inform you that the illegal order has been withdrawn and the Brigadier has taken over CE Chetak on 28 Oct 2011.

Anonymous said...

dear readers

the order by the BRDB has been withdrawn on 25th october on the instructions from the Raksha mantri. The Brigadier has taken over as CE Chetak on 28th October.