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Friday, July 29, 2016

The language goes far!

The language of the resolution issued by the Ministry of Finance implementing the recommendations of the 7th Central Pay Commission contained an odd line.

Though I would not blame the Ministry for it since more than them the line reflects the quality of application of mind by the Seventh Pay Commission to the pay, allowances and expectations of the defence community, certain amount of circumspection is required by authorities while dealing with such subjects. Of course, I am talking of the not so happily worded statement that says that additional levels were being added to the defence pay matrix to maintain parity with the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs), meaning thereby that the defence services were being upgraded to CAPFs level proving that the Pay Commission had placed the former at a disadvantage compared to the latter.

Till some years ago, other organisations used to repeatedly request successive Pay Commissions and the Government to bridge the gap between their pay & allowances and those of the defence services, but for the first time, the defence services had it so bad that the Government of India had to step in and say that the pay would now have to be enhanced so as to address the anomalous situation recommended by the Pay Commission wherein the defence services were now at a disadvantage vis-a-vis the CAPFs. Unlike some others, I sincerely believe that all professions and services in India are equally important and nobody can claim to be better than the other, however a reading of the Pay Commission Report reflects that a strange projection had been put forth as if the defence services were being paid more than what they deserved.

Historically as far as commissioned officers are concerned, the pay was broadly linked with officers of the Indian Police Service (IPS). When a pay progression anomaly was noticed after implementation of the 5th Central Pay Commission, a High Level Committee duly recommended that Majors of the Army in their 14th year of service should retain a near-parity with IPS officers with 14 years of service, and the enhanced pay was then implemented by issuing a Government order.  

Fast forward 2016, the Pay Commission gave IPS officers with 14 years of service (including training) an edge in pay even over Brigadiers with about 28 years of service!

While the Government may have rectified certain anomalies and may also not have accepted certain regressive recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission, it would be in the fitness of things for the political executive to at least ensure that decisions concerning the defence services are taken after due representation of all stakeholders and not based on one-sided inputs at the back of those who are directly affected. It would also be appreciated in case subtle aspects such as the language of notifications and letters are duly given adequate thought so as to avoid unnecessary controversy. Though the usage of language and choice of words may not matter to an officer drafting a resolution, it can really damage the self-respect of those who look towards the Government for taking care of their interests while they serve the society to the best of their ability in trying and exacting circumstances.

A little sensitivity, hence, wouldn’t hurt.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Home must avoid the Defence route....

Having appeared in litigation involving both the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) as well as the Ministry of Defence (MoD), I can safely say that the former embraces fairness much more than the latter. One does not see hyper-technical pleas being taken in Courts by the MHA or the officers of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) representing the MHA like we see in the case of the Defence Ministry or the representatives of the three defence services. The MHA also does not unnecessarily harp on contesting legally settled issues with the shrillness displayed by the MoD and its instrumentalities in Courts, and MHA's representatives have the moral courage to admit their wrongs before judicial fora most fairly without having to face pressure to ‘win cases’ from the higher headquarters as is the case with the defence services. The litigation against disability benefits of personnel of CAPFs is also quite low as compared to the defence services.

It therefore came as a surprise that the MHA and the usually sensitised Border Security Force (BSF) challenged the verdict of the Punjab & Haryana High Court in Amarjit Singh’s case. Amarjit was boarded out of the BSF in 1975 with blindness and was not granted disability pension on the pretext that his disability had no connection with service conditions. Again, he was also not granted any other kind of pension since he was released before completion of regular service limits. For close to four decades he kept running from pillar to post and ultimately the Punjab & Haryana High Court, calling it a glaring case of arbitrariness for meting such a treatment to an ex-trooper, granted him pension with full arrears with 9% interest and also awarded Rs 50,000 as costs. There was a small error however in the order since the Court granted him ‘invalid’ pension by declaring his disability attributable/aggravated by service stating that there was no minimum service condition required for the same which was not exactly the correct position since invalid pension is granted to  those cases which are neither attributable nor aggravated by service conditions and carries a minimum requirement of 10 years of service, whereas it is disability pension which is granted to attributable/aggravated cases wherein there is no requirement of any minimum service.

The MHA and the BSF, rather than applying to the Court for correction of the minor scripting error, challenged the verdict before the Division Bench of the High Court under Letter Patents Appeal (LPA). The Division Bench in a detailed decision citing all rules and regulations upheld the judgement of the Single Bench but clarified that it was disability pension that was admissible to the disabled trooper and not invalid pension. Needless to state, disability pension is higher than invalid pension. The Court also maintained the 9% interest and the costs of Rs 50,000 imposed on the Government.

While any right thinking individual would feel that an order in favour of a 100% disabled soldier would be implemented at the earliest, this time, the MHA and the BSF went the MoD and Army route and challenged the verdict before the Supreme Court. Of course, thankfully, the Apex Court dismissed the Special Leave Petition and affirmed the decision of the High Court.

Why I am speaking in detail of the above is that the citizenry wants the MoD to learn from the best practices in litigation from the MHA and it would be a humongous monstrosity for the MHA to rather adopt the opposite route. The Prime Minister and the Defence Minister have expressed concern about the rising litigation initiated by Government departments and the MHA should also take a cue from it. Just like personnel of the defence services, the troopers of CAPFs operate in trying conditions with heavy stress and strain, both in peace and field areas, and it is the barest minimum for us to expect a little more sensitivity towards disabled personnel and their families.

Reminds me again of this remark by the Delhi High Court while dealing with the ex-gratia claim of the wife of a Head Constable of the BSF who was also refused compensation on the ground that the death had no relation with service in the BSF:

“Stress, be it mental or physical, affects the body metabolism and puts a strain on the heart. A human body is not a switch. And unlike a switch which at a mere press stops the onward flow of current, the human body takes time to switch over when a circumstance changes.”

Wise words. Hope someone is listening....

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Seventh Pay Commission Gazette Notification (Updated)

The Gazette Notification for the implementation of the recommendations of the Seventh Central Pay Commission has been published by the Government of India, Ministry of Finance.

The same can be downloaded and accessed by clicking here.

The said notification primarily deals with civilian employees but there are elements common to both civil and defence staff. There is also a mention of some military modalities in the notification. Additionally, the appointments of Commandants of the National Defence Academy, Defence Services Staff College and the National Defence College would be examined for  upgradation to the Apex Grade as applicable to Army Commanders (GOsC-in-C) and equivalent in other two services/Secretary to Govt of India. 

Detailed notifications for defence and railway staff shall be issued by the respective ministries in due course.

Please do not mail me individual queries on the subject, please however feel free to discuss it through the comments section of this post.

Thank You.

Update: The Central Civil Services (Revised Pay) Rules, 2016 have also been notified today with all detailed instructions and the same can be downloaded and accessed by clicking here.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Human Rights and the Armed Forces: The Unfilled Space

My oped for ABP news:

These are the times for extreme views. These are times when people choose to let their fingers do the walking on their keypads without putting the brain into gear. These are times when important Supreme Court decisions are ridiculed as judicial overreach without even first taking the pains to read them or understand the broader import. Or else how could anyone justify the sharp reactions to the Supreme Court’s verdict on fake encounters in Manipur?

The past many years have seen extreme comments against Human Rights activists by those claiming to be patriots and also similar remarks against the security forces by the other side as if our Armed Forces are some kind of heartless mercenaries. How I wish proponents of both views could understand each other and fill up the space which is unfortunately lying empty in our discourse today! I would go to the extent of saying that both views act as a check and a counter-balance, and holistically viewed, are not opposite but rather complement one another and ensure that neither has a free run. That is what a democracy with a rule of law is all about.

So does the Supreme Court decision indict the Armed Forces or tie their hands? Not at all.

The decision merely reiterates the law that already exists and reminds us that semblance of balance or respect for human life (or Human Rights) should not be lost sight of, even in such extraordinary situations.


What people need to realise is that the decision comes down heavily upon ‘fake’ and staged encounters and not real operations. Those making irresponsible comments in the garb of support for Armed Forces should understand that the Armed Forces themselves consider fake encounters the greatest form of cowardice and hence would go all out to punish those who are actually found involved in such crimes or for that matter in other proved Human Rights violations.


What commentators have also failed to realise is that the Supreme Court has taken note of the “Ten Commandments” issued by the Chief of the Army Staff for operations and has praised the same and has in fact recorded that “nothing can better elucidate how the security forces are expected to act in Manipur.” The Commandments lay emphasis on compassion, integrity, minimum force, moral strength, professionalism and dharma. If there are people, including on TV panels and social media, who want the Army to be ruthless, then sorry to burst your bubble- that is not the ethos of the Army and such approach goes against the very grain of the same Commandments. The Army is a ‘defence’ service of protectors not an ‘offence’ force of aggressors and the Army believes in upholding Human Rights to the hilt and those found violating them are punished and those wrongly accused of violating them are protected.


Another aspect that the Supreme Court has rightly brought out is that the Central forces are performing a task that they are actually not meant to perform and such situations are ones which are meant to be handled by the civil administration. It is not an ordinary situation and the Apex Court has actually indicated that deployment of the Armed Forces for internal disturbances is not of their own volition and has frowned upon their prolonged deployment and that the State has not been able to restore normalcy thereby requiring their deployment. While this may sound harsh, it is the bitter truth. The Armed Forces are not performing a pleasant task and it is not that they chose the same.


The Supreme Court has also emphasized that by no stretch of imagination could it be deemed to be casting aspersions on the Armed Forces. The Supreme Court has reiterated that personnel of the Armed Forces are not immune to the judicial process, a fact that the Armed Forces themselves fully recognize. Also, if there is confidence about the lack of wrongdoing, there should be no resistance to any inquiry into any allegation and the Supreme Court has also not reached any conclusion about veracity of all allegations and has only focussed upon investigation and due process of law.

Beyond the extreme narrative, it would be in national interest if individuals and organisations with supposedly contrary views try to understand all facets of this vexed issue devoid of political polarization and view each other with respect and attempt to find a meeting ground rather than indulge in shrieking matches on electronic and social media. It also must be understood that the Armed Forces vouch for protection of Human Rights as well as the rule of law and shall ensure that violators face (a fair) trial, but at the same time, shall also strongly stand behind their troops wrongly accused of violations due to political considerations.


Major Navdeep Singh is a practicing Advocate at the Punjab & Haryana High Court. He was the founding President of the Armed Forces Tribunal Bar Association at Chandigarh. He is a Member of the International Society for Military Law and the Law of War at Brussels. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Kashmir, from an Armchair!

My opinion piece on the commentary on military strategy in Kashmir by armchair and keyboard warriors, published by ABP News:

Kashmir, from an Armchair!

Major Navdeep Singh

Troopers of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) went down for us recently in Pampore, Kashmir. Before the nation could absorb the shock or their families could come to terms to the tragedy, there was whole lot of noise on the incident in the media and the social media, amusingly mostly from those who know nothing about military strategy, battle or insurgency except the in-depth knowledge gained through video games and who dished out ideas on how terrorism should be dealt with by our forces and how a befitting reply was called for. Then there was a small group of military veterans who lamented as to why the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) could never professionally compare with the regular Army.

To my limited understanding, three things starkly stood out from this most unfortunate incident and the debate it generated. Firstly, that the narrative is increasingly being taken over by armchair warriors who have no inkling about what they’re talking about. Secondly, our troopers from the CRPF and other CAPFs and even their capabilities as individuals, unfortunately, are constantly being shown in bad light. Thirdly, the turf war between agencies, real or perceived, is not in the interest of the country and too much over-correction and micromanagement may also kill the military initiative of troops operating in trying circumstances.  

Let me attempt to explain these three aspects in detail.

War, more specifically counter-insurgency, is not mathematical. There is no textbook solution in military strategy. While broader principles are to be kept in mind, the unpredictable nature of such warfare makes it impossible to foresee every single step of a brainwashed enemy who is out to die and who has no value for life- his own, his peers’, innocent civilians’ or soldiers’. Troops operate in a hazy zone and it would be nice if people with no inkling of the actual on-ground situation of that moment, including this author, keep their mouths zipped and let experts in that area handle it. Contrary to popular propaganda, growing incidents of such attacks do not reflect the failure of our security establishment but simply the frustration of our enemies, and there should be no doubt in anybody’s mind that the current leadership in the area is not just capable, but also the best. Also coming back to those who comment from afar, as I always say, military operations sound exciting only for those who watch them on TV thinking as if war is some kind of fireworks display- ask those who suffer the legacy of war and their families.

Whenever personnel of CAPFs go down for our national cause, immediate comparisons are made with the defence services wherein it is stated how poor they are professionally when compared to the Army. And this is stated in such a manner as if it’s the fault of the individual trooper. Yes there may be deficiency in training, yes there could be lack of professionalism and equipment, but the same is not the fault of the person who is wearing the khaki uniform and performing his or her role to the best of ability. The fault may lie in long standing policies which have resulted in lack of attention to issues related to the CAPFs. In case of CRPF, it has assumed the role of Chalte Raho Pyare Force wherein there is no cohesion and small sections of personnel keep moving here and there on varied and multiple duties without any kind of regimentation, but for this the individuals wearing the uniform cannot be blamed and it is the policies which would need to be reviewed, and which review, we hear, is in the offing in the very near future. Let us realize, our men and women of CAPFs do not lack in bravery and they emerge from the same populace as personnel of our military, and sacrifice of every soldier deserves the same respect, irrespective of the colour of the uniform. Though not exactly mutually exclusive, should our nation be concentrating more on the missiles that we’re never going to use or the basic equipment of the soldier on ground, is what we should introspect about.

Coming to the last of the three points that I would like to touch, incidents of turf wars between organisations, as also partly initially seen in this occurrence wherein there was a controversy as to which force killed the militants, are growing by the day. Of course though since times immemorial we have been told that success has many fathers while failure is an orphan, this tendency of glorification should not extend to absurd extremes where national interest is forsaken for narrow pomposity and fleeting fame. The magnanimity of the Army’s Northern Command in officially clarifying that such operations are conducted by way of synergy between various forces hence came as a much required development. Even the tendency of micromanaging the reaction of troops when they are faced with the enemy can at times kill the initiative of soldiers in Catch-22 situations and that is where the Prime Minister’s statement about freedom of operation for our troops also comes as a welcome announcement.

While a space for free, candid and open discussion is the very foundation of democracy, we must display due sensitivity towards those whom we lose in such unfortunate incidents. Before blaming them individually or commenting upon the merits or demerits of various strategies in complex military situations, let us close our eyes and think of the families the tears on whose faces have not yet gone dry.

Major Navdeep Singh is a practicing Advocate at the Punjab & Haryana High Court. He was the founding President of the Armed Forces Tribunal Bar Association at Chandigarh. He is a Member of the International Society for Military Law and the Law of War at Brussels. 

Friday, July 1, 2016

The 7th Central Pay Commission: only cool heads shall prevail

What good is the mind of a man if it’s run by another ~ Prince

There are some individuals who remarked that I did not stoutly condemn the regressive ‘recommendations’ of the 7th Central Pay Commission (7th CPC) insofar they pertain to the Armed Forces. Some even floated some kind of a conspiracy theory stating that I was ‘supporting’ the ‘recommendations’ since I was a Member of a Committee constituted by the Defence Minister to look into the resolution of service and pensionary issues, forgetting in the bargain that I and other Members were a part of the same in an Honorary apolitical capacity and the said Committee is no longer in existence since we submitted our recommendations way back in November 2015, and those recommendations, currently under active examination, were highly objective, and could not, by any stretch of imagination, be termed pro-government (or anti-government for that matter). We were given a task which was undertaken honestly, objectively, without fear or favour and without any interference from any quarter.

Having said that, though I do not wish to think much about theories of fertile minds who wish to politicize such important issues, let us get some things clear here.

Firstly, it is a fact that there were some totally absurd recommendations rendered by the 7th CPC. And it is also a fact that I had fully brought them out on my blog and those posts can be perused to get an idea about some of the faulty parts of the 7th CPC. In fact, some observations of the 7th CPC were not just illogical, but also factually incorrect and against law laid down by Constitutional Courts. Some of these issues were discussed on this blog here, and also here. If that was not enough, the total benefit recommended by the 7th CPC, to both civil and military employees, was meagre, to say the least. 

Secondly, on 29th June 2016, the cabinet approved some of the recommendations of the 7th CPC, and contrary to rumours being spread, many regressive recommendations have NOT been approved by the Government. To take a few examples, the anomalous allowances recommended for the military vis-a-vis other services have NOT been accepted and it has rather been directed that existing dispensation shall continue till the anomalies are removed and allowances rationalized by a Committee constituted for the said purpose. The recommendation for discontinuance of rations has also NOT been accepted by the Government. The recommendation of reduction of disability benefits has also NOT been accepted by the Government, and as I understand, shall be analysed by one of the constituted Committees. In case there still remains any anomaly pertaining to our disabled soldiers, rest assured it shall be legally contested with full force. The divided recommendation on  Non-Functional Upgradation has also NOT been accepted by the Government and shall now again be examined administratively, which is not a good step in my opinion, but better than being rejected by the Cabinet- the window for resolution is still open.

Thirdly, in my humble opinion, the focus since yesterday has been on the faulty recommendations of the 7th CPC, which is old news, rather than what has been finally accepted. Messages and mails have been generated based on the recommendations and not the final acceptance. The issuance of implementation instructions could not have been kept in abeyance till the resolution or consideration of all anomalies of multiple services and hence execution of the entire Report was not even being expected at this stage. Also rather than focussing on only the financial aspects, I feel that the spotlight should be more on the insidious aspects such as the degradation of status which interestingly is a legacy of the 6th CPC and also the services’ own doing in many instances. Moreover, our attempts should be on due representation of the defence services on the anomaly committees set up by the Government or representation of experts in the field rather than only officers who are guided by noting sheets prepared by the lower echelons of the bureaucracy. Long existing anomalies have not yet been resolved, and day by day, the list is getting longer.

Fourthly, blind forwarding and acceptance of the content of group messages and disinformation campaigns can result in unnecessary frustration and disaffection which must be avoided at all costs. In my perception, rather than shooting from the hip in the dark, issues need to be identified and a step by step course for resolution be charted for their redressal. In a democracy, we have the right to express ourselves against what we perceive to be unjust, but then my only request is that the projection should be based on the right data and facts. I do not feel it’s an unreasonable request that hot-headed comments may be controlled since the modalities are not even out yet in black and white and specific problem areas have not even been duly identified.

Coming back to the start point of this post, I would wish to remind readers that my approach has been consistent in this regard (See the disclaimer on this blog above) and similar myth-busters were posted by me at the time of the 6th CPC also. For one such example, you may have a look at this post of May 2008.

Thank You. Stay Calm!