Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Is it time for the Army to stop basking in ‘political’ limelight

The present COAS and Army HQ are aware that there have been retaliatory attacks across the LoC in the past. (I will not denigrate them by terming them ‘surgical strikes,’ now common term for anything and almost everything!). That retaliatory attacks have taken place in the past has been confirmed by a former Foreign Secretary-NSA, and also the present Foreign Secretary.

It was simply the Army going about its duty that it knows best, with the quiet efficiency it is renowned for, but minimal fuss. Those days there was no chest thumping by the Army or requirement for others to hold up for display, the actions as acts of patriotism for ordinary, patriotic but grumbling (about something else) citizens of India.

The narrative appears to have changed in recent months. We have had a former Army officer, who knows better, telling the world about a retaliatory attack across the IB of an eastern neighbour, much to the chagrin of that Government! Diplomats of that country are still murmuring about that embarrassment.

As if that was not enough, we had the DGMO go about speaking of the retaliatory attack as if it was a new invention of the Indian Army of 2016! Knowledgeable and discerning viewers and readers were aghast at “we were there” type accounts of the attack by sundry politicians, spokespersons, even retired Army officers and media anchors giving us PowerPoint presentation and all. 

Another instance of politicisation of the Army is the unedifying spectacle of counting vehicles at toll gates for updating mobilisation plans! The usual (past?) practice for updating mobilisation plans is for the Command HQ to write to the Transport Secretaries of the States and GMs of the zonal Railways within their AoR, requesting an estimate of different type of good vehicles and railway rakes/wagons that could be made available in 24, 48 and 72 hours after the call for mobilisation. That/those figures are then factored into the annual update and plans revised. It also places complete responsibility for those States and Railways to make available the resources. 

Why would Army personnel stand and count vehicles at toll gates and across highways all over the North east? And how come the Navy and Air Force did not count vehicles? After all mobilisation would be for all three Defence Forces!

There has been excessive politicisation of the Army in recent times and probably now the Ashoka lion, stars and crossed batons & swords have come to roost!

So, in the matter of selecting the next COAS, what is surprising if this Govt does what the Congress Govt did (by selecting Lt Gen Vaidya for appointment as COAS by superseding Lt Gen S K Sinha)? Nothing different, for a Govt with a difference! Why should there be indignation on the Rawat appointment? Only because it was done by the Govt giving the seniority principle the go by?

Why was there a muted (or little) reaction from ex-Servicemen to a former COAS making his displeasure over the appointment of the incumbent COAS obvious (to his favourite whipping boys/girls, the ‘presstitutes’)?

Why has MoD not provided information requested vide MODEF/R/2015/60647 dated 13.3.2015 on the promotion policy promulgated by MoD vide No. 7 (1)/79/D (Air –III) dated 30.8.1986, as amended?

What was the reaction when Govt’s attention was drawn to a policy that only those who have commanded South Western Air Command (SWAC) or Western Air Command (WAC) or been the Vice Chief of Air Staff (VCAS), for are eligible to be considered fro promotion to CAS? (MoD letter No, Air HQ/S.18172/22/3/Plans/3750/D (Air-III)/62 dated 15.5.1974 and MoD No. 5 (6)/86/US-D (Air-III) dated 9.10.1987 refer).

There was no clamour on the denial of promotion to AOC-in-C to a Flying Branch (Navigator sub-stream) quoting some policy that is heavily weighed in favour of pilots, in particular fighter pilots? (MoD letter No. Air HQ/S.24702/2/(PP(O)/PC-3/471/UD/S (Air –III) dated 18.11.1992 refers).

[Note: RTI request MODEF/R/2015/60588 dated 6.3.2015 transferred by MoD was transferred to Air HQ. There has been no reply till date.]

Or an undeclared policy (covert reservation?) that there can be only two AOsC-in-C from transport/helicopter stream and that the No. 2 in Trg Comd/EAC/SAC/CAC HQ has to be a fighter pilot, if the No. 1 is a transport/helicopter pilot?    

What is the policy for appointments of Army Commander and equivalents other than the two years residual service rule? Why is the policy ‘SECRET’ or ‘CONFIDENTIAL’?

In conclusion, I draw attention to certain paragraphs of the Honourable Supreme Court’s judgment in Civil Appeal No. 3208 of 2015 in UoI & Others Vs Lt Col P K Choudhary & Others: - 

39. It was contended that the policy decision taken by Government of India was in the larger interest of national security and for making the Army more efficient and that the same did not violate any right of the respondents much less any fundamental right. The plea of legitimate expectation raised on their behalf was in that view futile for there was neither any basis for such a plea in the pleadings nor was the plea tenable in law especially when the policy change was in public interest.

40. Halsbury’s Laws of England, Fourth Edition, Volume I (I) 151 explains the meaning of “Legitimate Expectation” in the following words:

“81. Legitimate expectations. A person may have a legitimate expectation of being treated in a certain way by an administrative authority even though he has no legal right in private law to receive such treatment. The expectation may arise either from a representation or promise made by the authority, including an implied representation, or from consistent past practice.

The existence of a legitimate expectation may have a number of different consequences; it may give locus standi to seek leave to apply for judicial review; it may mean that the authority ought not to act so as to defeat the expectation without some overriding reason of public policy to justify its doing so; or it may mean that, if the authority proposes to defeat a person’s legitimate expectation, it must afford him an opportunity to make representations on the matter. The courts also distinguish, for example in licensing cases, between original applications, applications to renew and revocations; a party who has been granted a licence may have a legitimate expectation that it will be renewed unless there is some good reason not to do so, and may therefore be entitled to greater procedural protection than a mere applicant for a grant.”

41. Legitimate expectation as a concept has engaged the attention of this Court in several earlier decisions to which we shall presently refer. But before we do so we need only to say that the concept arises out of what may be described as a reasonable expectation of being treated in a certain way by an administrative authority even though the person who has such an expectation has no right in law to receive the benefit expected by him. Any such expectation can arise from an “express promise” or a “consistent course of practice or procedure” which the person claiming the benefit may reasonably expect to continue. The question of redress which the person in whom the legitimate expectation arises can seek and the approach to be adopted while resolving a conflict between any such expectation, on the one hand, and a public policy in general public interest on the other, present distinct dimensions every time the plea of legitimate expectation is raised in a case.

47. That apart, legitimate expectation as an argument cannot prevail over a policy introduced by the Government which does not suffer from any perversity, unfairness, or unreasonableness or which does not violate any fundamental or other enforceable rights vested in the respondents. …………… We have in the earlier part of the judgment dealt with the recommendations made by the Committees and the objectives sought to be achieved by the policy decisions of the Government. There is nothing perverse, unreasonable, or unfair about the policy……... In the absence of any perversity, unreasonableness, or unfairness in the policy so introduced, we see no reason to allow the argument based on legitimate expectation to unsettle or undo the policy which is otherwise laudable and intended to render the Indian Army more efficient and better equipped for combat situations…..”

Quad Erat Demonstrandum!

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