NEW DELHI: Targeting transparency in promotion procedures in the three services has been Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s mission. He is contemplating a proposal to introduce a civilian observer in the promotion boards. The move is aimed to reduce litigation, as nearly 5,000 cases pertaining to promotion are pending in tribunals and courts. The Service Headquarters isn’t amused.
Though the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) move is at its nascent stage, it has started creating ripples in the Service Headquarters, with many opposing civilian authority intruding into their territory. Simultaneously, many officers supporting the move, claiming that a closed-door selection procedure needs to be transparent to end doubts and “rumour mongering”.
Parrikar has often said that soldiers should not spend time in courts instead of being at the border.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has often said that soldiers should not spend time in courts instead of being at the border.
In this regard, a five-member committee of experts for reduction of litigation in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and strengthening mechanisms of redressal of grievances was formed few months ago. Its report submitted to the ministry observed that many appeals in military service matters “are fuelled by prestige and official egotism”.
“Efforts are only aimed to have 100 per cent transparency in promotions,” said a top official of South Block, which houses the MoD.
“Inclusion of an independent observer in the selection promotion boards of all officer ranks will not only lead to minimise dissatisfaction or resentment, but will also bring some fresh air in the British era closed-door system of selection,” explained a senior officer. The promotion board comprises military officials and chiefs of all three services. A ministry official claims that it’s only focus is to reduce unnecessary litigation in courts.
Parrikar’s another move has also raised eyebrows in the top military authority. Stamping his authority in his order in March, the defence minister took serious note of the Service Headquarters for taking action against personnel who had made representations to him directly. He has directed that “henceforth Service Headquarters shall restrain from taking action against complaining personnel and if any action needs to be taken, the same shall be first furnished to the MoD for seeking approval of the Raksha Mantri (defence minister).”
“This is questioning the decision-making authority of the military. Service Headquarters always follows prescribed rules and regulations while taking disciplinary action,” said a senior military officer.
“It has been observed that whistleblowers are often targeted and shunted to remote postings as a vindictive move,” said a defence ministry official.