New Delhi, Nov. 8: The fate of four air marshals (equivalent to lieutenant generals) of the Indian Air Force hangs in the balance after Delhi High Court today scrapped the recommendations of a board conferring the rank on them.
The court also doubted the credibility of the force's promotion policy for its senior-most officers.
It ordered that the proceedings of the IAF's February 2003 special promotion board be quashed and a new board look afresh into the cases in four weeks.
The order was issued after hearing the pleas of two air vice-marshals (equivalent to major generals in the army). During the hearing, the court had also looked into the censure record of the IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal S. Krishnaswamy.
'We respect the Delhi High Court order. After studying the entire judgment carefully, we will take the appropriate course of action,' IAF spokesperson Squadron Leader Mahesh Upasani said. The air force does not rule out the possibility of appealing against the order.
Air Vice-Marshal Harish Masand, who retired earlier this year as senior administrative and air staff officer of the Nagpur-based maintenance command, and Air Vice-Marshal T.S. Chatwal, assistance chief of naval staff (education), had challenged the recommendations of the special promotion board in the high court. The board had considered the cases of the two officers along with that of four others for promotion to the rank of air marshal.
The court found that the board was discriminatory in making its recommendations. 'The treatment meted out to the petitioner is a classic case of indifference, high-handedness, arbitrariness, irrationality and amounts to colourful exercise of powers and manipulations to deny promotions to a meritorious officer,' the bench said.
The board had recommended that A.D. Joshi, J.S. Gujral, F.H. Major and A.K. Singh be promoted as air marshals but said Masand and Chatwal were not fit to be promoted. The Delhi High Court division bench of Justices Vijender Jain and H.R. Malhotra directed that IAF constitute another board to reconsider the cases in accordance with a new policy.
Till February 2003, air vice-marshals' annual confidential reports were given a weightage of 80 marks (out of 100) and 20 marks were discretionary. However, late last year, this formula was revised and confidential reports were given a weightage of 95 and that of discretionary marks was slashed to 5.
The court held that the promotion policy violated Article 14 (right to equality).
Air force sources would not immediately clarify if the promotions would be reviewed.