The Supreme Court in a landmark decision today has upheld the order of the Armed Forces Tribunal wherein the discriminatory policy of different retirement ages for the ranks of Group Captain (Time Scale) vis-a-vis Group Captain (Selection Grade) was held illegal and struck down.
The Supreme Court has dismissed the appeal filed by the Ministry of Defence and the Air Force against similarly placed officers led by Gp Capt Atul Shukla, and has concluded the following in strong words:
Suffice it to say that the basis for classification in question for purposes of age of superannuation which the appellant has projected is much too tenuous to be accepted as a valid basis for giving to the Time Scale Officers a treatment different from the one given to the Select Officers.
We are also of the view that concerns arising from a parity in the retirement age of Time Scale and Select Officers too are more perceptional than real. At any rate, such concerns remain to be substantiated on the basis of any empirical data. The upshot of the above discussion is that the classification made by the Government of India for purposes of different retirement age for Time Scale Officers and Select Officers does not stand scrutiny on the touchstone of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution as rightly held by the Tribunal.
The above closes another yet long tumultuous journey of affected officers. In fact, once the decision was rendered by the AFT, the Air HQ should have taken up a case with the Govt for rationalising the policy rather than unnecessarily challenging it before the Apex Court.
It is high time that litigation against own employees is considered on the touchstone of logic and equity rather than indulging in ego-fuelled appeals. It is time for the political executive to take a call on this and trample on the vicious cycle of luxurious litigation without accountability.