The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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IAF in promotion rethink

New Delhi, Dec. 18: The Indian Air Force has reconsidered promotions for 15 of its seniormost officers on court orders.

The unprecedented reconsideration ' that will lead to the appointment of five officers at the rank of air marshal (equivalent to lieutenant general in the army) ' was carried out after the court scrapped an earlier promotion policy on an appeal by two air vice-marshals.

Indian Air Force sources said today the special promotion board was reconsidering the cases of the officers ' four of whom were already given the rank of air marshal ' because Delhi High Court had ordered a scrapping of its 2002 promotion policy and the recommendations of a February 2003 special promotion board.

In an act of faith this week, defence minister Pranab Mukherjee had said Air Chief Marshal S. Krishnaswamy will chair the special promotion board but air force sources would not confirm this immediately.

A portion of the air chief's own confidential record was seen by a bench of Delhi High Court. In its judgment, the court had criticised his role.

The report of the special promotion board is to be delivered to the court in a sealed cover and is being kept confidential till then. The board was asked to reconsider the cases after Air Vice-Marshals Harish Masand and T.S. Chhatwal alleged in petitions that they had been discriminated against. (An air vice-marshal is equivalent to a major general in the army).

The sources said the board's report could consider promoting five officers to the rank of air marshal.

An earlier special promotion board in February 2003, based on the 2002 policy, had rejected Masand and Chhatwal's candidature for the rank of air marshal.

The Delhi High Court order, also upheld by the Supreme Court after the government challenged it, had thrown air headquarters into a quandary on four of its air marshals ' A.D. Joshi, J.S. Gujral, F.H. Major and A.K. Singh. Joshi heads the Eastern Air Command and Gujral is deputy chief of air staff. Major is deputy chief of integrated defence staff and A.K. Singh is senior air staff officer, Western Air Command.

The four officers were recommended for promotion to the rank of air marshal by the board that negated the claims of Air Vice-Marshals Masand and Chhatwal. Masand retired in January this year but would have served for at least two more years had he been promoted.

Delhi High Court, in its judgment, had observed that the air chief indulged in 'mala fide exercise of power'. It had also doubted if the then defence secretary, Subir Dutta, had been fair.

The court order has prompted the defence ministry to consider measures that will prevent disputes within the services from spilling over to civil courts. Delhi High Court had ordered that a new board look afresh into the cases within four weeks.

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