A petition has been filed in the Delhi High Court challenging a 2017 promotion policy of the Indian Army whereby officers from the Intelligence Corps are excluded from being considered for promotion to the rank of Lieutenant General (Lt. General) in Non-General Cadre Staff Stream (NGCSS) vacancies. (Major General SS Kahara v. Union of India and ors)
Officers from the Intelligence Corps are deliberately ostracised and disentitled from becoming Lt. Generals in NGCSS and, consequently, from heading their own stream as Head of Arm (HOA) for no justifiable reason, stated the petition filed by Major General Sukhwinder Singh Kahara.
As explained in the petition, the Indian Army comprises of Arms and Services corps. The Arms Corps comprises of Intelligence Corps, Infantry, Mechanised Infantry, Armoured, Artillery, Signals, Engineers, Army Air Defence, Army Aviation, etc. As per the Indian Army’s policy, officers from the General cadre and non-General cadre officers from all Arms and services, except Intelligence Corps and Army Aviation (from the Arms corps), can be promoted to Lt General posts in the NGCSS. The petition stated that the policy in question provides no reasons at all, for the exclusion of the Intelligence Corps from the scope of promotion within the same … the promotion policy of the Respondents is discriminatory in nature and specifically ostracises and disentitles the Intelligence Corps ARM from the ambit of eligibility for even consideration for promotion.
An officer is initially commissioned to the Indian Army in the rank of a Lieutenant, from where they are promoted to the rank of Captain, then to the rank of a Major and thereafter to the rank of a Lt. Colonel.
Promotion to the rank of Colonel in respective streams is determined by a Selection Board. From this rank on, all the next ranks - which are Brigadier, Major General, Lieutenant General - are determined by deep selection by the selection board.
As per the petitioner, from the rank of Brigadier on, there is no option for officers in services to progress in the General cadre. In this backdrop, it was contended:
The Services Corps have been included in the consideration scope to share in the vacancies of NGCSS, despite the fact that they were not chosen for the option of choosing progression in the General Cadre at the rank of Brigadier itself. Thus such inclusion of the Services Corps and exclusion of the Intelligence Corps is unfathomable and irrational.
The petitioner submitted that he has reached the rank of Major General in his own stream. Presently, he holds the designation of Additional Director General Military Intelligence (B) in the Indian army, the Court was told.
The petitioner is due to retire on December 31, 2021. If he is considered for promotion to the rank of Lt. General, he will be able to serve for another two years in the rank of Lt. General, the petitioner added. However, it was submitted that the petitioner is presently ineligible to be considered for the rank of Lt. General in the NGCSS vacancy on account of the challenged promotion policy dated December 21, 2017. The petitioner has registered protest that for someone who has risen through his own stream of Intelligence Corps, he has been left out from being considered for this promotion. The petitioner highlighted that as a result of this arbitrary promotion policy, the HOA of the Intelligence Corps does not come from their own stream unlike other streams/corps where the officers from the same stream become the Head of Arms.
The petition added that the Head of Arm of the Intelligence Corps is an officer of rank of Lt. Gen from Infantry/ Armd/ Mechanised infantry or any other General Cadre officer … for no stated reason or objective, the HOA of the Intelligence Corps also manning the post of DGMI comes from the General Cadre, (Non-Intelligence Corps) with little or no experience of intelligence based appointments. The Respondents have prescribed such qualitative requirements for holding the designation of DGMI that no intelligence officer will qualify for the said appointment. The reason is that no intelligence officer has the opportunity of acquiring such qualifications on account of the door being shut for them at every stage.
Besides seeking quashing of the promotion policy, the petitioner sought directions to be issued to the Centre to include Intelligence Corps to be considered for promotion in NGCSS and to create a vacancy at the rank of Lt. General for officers to be promoted from Intelligence Corps.
The petitioner also sought a direction to consider him for promotion to the rank of Lt. General and also to ensure that an officer of the rank of Lt. General from Intelligence Corps to be designated as Head of Arm of Intelligence Corps. The Bench of Justices Manmohan and Navin Chawla issued notice in the matter on September 1. The matter has been listed before the Joint Registrar for completion of pleadings on November 24. The petition has been filed through advocates Neela Gokhale, Kushal Choudhary, Ilam Paridi, Shradha Agrawal.