Supreme Court stayed AFT’s decision to quash Army’s 2009 Promotion Policy

The Supreme Court of India on 26 March 2015 stayed the decision of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) to quash the Army’s promotion policy for the rank of Colonel from January 2009. The 2009 promotion policy of Army is based on Command Exit Model (CEM).

The decision of AFT was stayed by a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice TS Thakur (head of the bench), Justice R Banumathi and Justice Amitava Roy.

The decision of AFT was quashed by the SC after the Defence Ministry appealed before the SC and justified the CEM policy.

It justified the promotion policy on the grounds that the Army, being the employer, has a right to have its promotion policies and that the AFT should not have interfered in the policy decision.

AFT decision on CEM policy
Earlier on 2 March 2015, the AFT had upheld a petition filed by 30 Army officers against the 2009 promotion policy which gave infantry and artillery more Colonels than other arms and services.

The tribunal quashed the CEM policy on the ground that it was discriminatory and hence in violation of the Article 14 (right to equality) of Constitution of India.

For instance, under the CEM policy in 2009, out of 734 vacancies, 441 vacancies were cornered by infantry and 186 vacancies were cornered by artillery.

CEM policy was pushed in by the Army HQ and is based on the functional requirements of the Army in which Infantry and Artillery are two biggest arms.

Promotion policy in Army

Before the existence of CEM policy, the promotions in Army were made on pro rata basis. That is, promotions up to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel were time-bound if the requisite exams are cleared whereas for the rank of Colonel and above were based on the result of selection boards.

In 2001 the AV Singh Committee (AVSC) constituted to restructure the officer cadre with the objective of reducing the age of battalion and brigade commanders and improving the career aspirations of military officers.

The Kargil Review Committee had recommended that battalion commanding officers or colonels should be around 37 years of age, while brigade commanders should be around 45.