Supreme Court says seniority relevant for consideration in picking Army commanders
New Delhi: Six years after the then Lieutenant General Dalbir Singh Suhag’s appointment, the Supreme Court dismissed Lt Gen Ravi Dastane’s petition citing then Army chief General Vijay Kumar Singh’s pre-retirement order imposing a discipline and vigilance ban on him in May 2012, while challenging the appointment by the government.
Lt Gen Suhag succeeded Gen Bikram Singh, who lifted the ban after succeeding Gen VK Singh, as Army chief and retired on December 31, 2016.
A bench of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Hemant Gupta modified the 19-year-old ground laid down by the Supreme Court in Lt Gen RS Kadyan’s case for selection of Army commanders by upholding his selection as Eastern Command chief.
In the Kadyan case, the apex court had emphasized that appointment of commanders were by selection and that an officer did not have a vested right to claim to be promoted only by dint of seniority.
However, given the sensitive role attached to the post of Army commander, Justice Chandrachud recognized that it would not be wise for the authority to remain oblivious to seniority of officers.
He said, “Seniority may be a relevant consideration, seniority brings with it experience of organization, experience in handling situations and experience in perspective and planning. The post, however, remains a selection post. In making appointments to such crucial posts, a range of relevant considerations can be borne in mind.”
The bench also said, “It would not be appropriate in the course of judicial review to confine the appointing authority to a narrow range of considerations. The appointing authority is best suited to determine who among the officers in the rank of lieutenant general is suited for appointment against a vacancy.”
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