1. It is often argued that the MoD must have Armed Forces officers at the decision making levels. The proposal, if there was/is one, has been stymied time and again by the “bureaucracy.” This non-availability of Armed Forces officers at decision making levels has often given the lasting impression that the bureaucracy’s left hand does not know what its right hand is doing. Here is one more of the glaring and embarrassing examples.
2. On 12.3.2005, the MoD vide F No. 4(2)/US (L)/ D(Air-III)/04 directed the Air Force (and in separate letters, the Army and Navy) to implement the first part of the Ajai Vikram Singh Committee (AVSC) w.e.f 16.12.2004 by putting into effect the following changes in the Promotion policy of Officers other than those in the AMC, ADC, RVC, and MNS: -
(a) Newly commissioned officers would be in the rank of Flying Officers (Fg Offr) and equivalent,
(b) Eligible Fg Offs (and equivalents) would be granted promotion to the rank of Flight Lieutenants (Flt Lt), and equivalent on completion of 2 years of commissioned service,
(c) Eligible Flt Lts (and equivalents) would be granted promotion to ranks of Squadron Leaders (Sqn Ldr), and equivalent on completion of 6 years of commissioned service,
(d) Eligible Sqn Ldrs (and equivalents) would be eligible for promotion to ranks of Wing Commanders (Wing Cdr) and equivalents on completion of 13 years of commissioned service, and
(e) Wg Cdrs would be considered (empanelled) by Promotion Boards for promotion to the rank Group Captains (Gp Capt) Select. Those Wg Cdrs not placed on the select list would be considered twice more and unsuccessful Wg Cdrs would finally be promoted to Gp Capt - Time Scale (and equivalent) 0n completion of 26 years of commissioned service.
(f) The above Wg Cdrs (and equivalents), would be approximately 38 years old on first consideration in the 18th year of Commissioned Service, and would be approximately 40 years of commissioned when they are Permanently Passed over in the third consideration.
3. As admitted, the objective of the MoD in implementing the AVSC was to lower the age profile of officers eligible for promotion to the ranks of Captain, Major, Lieutenant Colonel and Colonel – Select (and equivalents) to ensure that the Armed Forces have younger and physically fit officers [age profile is stated by MoD in Para 4 of Civil Appeal 3208 of 2015 of UoI & Another Vs Lt Col P K Choudhary & Others in the Command & Exit Policy].
4. Vide separate policies for Pre-Mature Retirement (PMR) for the Army and Navy, and Premature Separation from Service (PSS) for the Air Force, Officers of the ranks of Wg Cdr (and equivalent) were permitted to apply for PMR/PSS if they were over-looked for promotion to the rank of Gp Capt – Selection Grade (and equivalent) by three Promotion Boards in consecutive years on grounds of having been Permanently Passed Over. They were entitled to full non-effective benefits such as Pension, DCRG, and Leave Encashment etc.
5. The intention of the PMR/PSS policies was to ensure that officers of the Armed Forces had a younger age profile recommended by the AVSC and approved by the MoD.
6. MoD now appears to have issued an implicit but unstated policy of preventing the PMR/PSS by Para 4 of MoD F No. 12 (1)/2014/D (Pen/Pol) – Part II dated 7.11.2015 which states, inter alia, “Personnel who opt to get discharged henceforth on their own request under Rule 13 (3) 1 (i) (b), 13 (3) 1 (iv) or Rule 16B of the Army Rules 1954 or equivalent Navy or Air Force Rules will not be entitled to the benefits of OROP. It will be effective prospectively.”
7. With the prospect of a considerable loss in non-effective benefits for officers, MoD will find increasingly that Permanently Passed Over Group Capts (and equivalents) and Air Commodores (Air Cmdes) and equivalents will not apply for PMR/PSS. The adverse consequences MoD’s ibid decision are as follows: -
(a) Wg Cdrs who are Permanently Passed Over for promotion to the rank of Gp Capt – Select (and equivalent) by 3 successive Promotion Boards in the 18th, 19th and 20th year of Commissioned Service and declared ‘Permanently Passed’ will continue to remain in the Armed Forces till they are promoted to Gp Capt – Time Scale (and equivalent) rank in the 26th year of Commissioned Service.
(b) On promotion to the rank of Gp Capt – Time Scale and equivalent, they can and, in the post 7.11.2015 scenario, will remain in service till the age of superannuation of 54 years for Colonels and Gp Capts of the Flying Branch of the Air Force and 56 years for Capts (IN) and 57 years for Gp Capt (TS).
(c) Similarly, Permanently Passed Over Gp Capt – Select and Air Cmdes (and equivalents) will continue in the Armed Forces till the age of superannuation.
8. It is therefore a moot point if the MoD, by its decision contained in Para 4 of the 7.11.2015 letter, wishes to compel Permanently passed Over and older officers not to apply for PMR/PSS for apprehensions of loss of OROP and future enhancements, resulting in Permanently Passed Over officers remaining in service. They will block vacancies for promotion of younger officers and thereby increasing own frustration and de-motivate their juniors.
9. It needed a vociferous public outcry and pressure from trade unions, including the Bharat Mazdoor Sangh, for the Government to rescind its decisions in the Employees Pension Fund matter. Hopefully, because the Armed Forces do not have that ‘avenue,’ the MoD would, on its own, see the unreasonableness of the PMR clause in the OROP implementation order and delete it. By withdrawing the PMR clause, MoD will not overturn it own aim and avowal of having a younger and more physically fit Armed Forces as a strategy enunciated for the future defence of Bharat Mata.