New Delhi: In an unusual order, the Delhi High Court has quashed two promotions of a sitting Lieutenant General of Army, terming them as "illegal," and has relegated him to a lower rank of Brigadier. A bench of Justices Gita Mittal and JR Midha quashed the promotions given to Lt Gen SS Thakral, a 1974 batch officer, in 2009 and 2011 saying the Staff Selection Board exercised its powers in "bad faith" and without following established procedures.
"The established and undisputed facts which preceded the orders appointing respondent no 5 (Thakral), first as Major General and then as Lieutenant General, manifest the bad faith in the exercise of the power to effect the said appointments of respondent no 5.
"The respondents have ignored several relevant factors, which failure has offended against procedural propriety, making their decision in proceeding with the selections perverse and irrational, a facet of unreasonableness...They have therefore failed to comply with prescribed procedure, acted arbitrarily and abused discretionary powers," the bench said.
The court quashed the proceedings and results of the selection boards held on August 12, 2009 and August 18, 2011, promoting Thakral to the ranks of Maj Gen and Lt Gen respectively, in Remount Veterinary Corps (RVC) of Army. The decision came on the plea of Maj Gen Shrikant Sharma, a 1976 batch officer, alleging the selection boards had shown "undue haste" and "bias" in promoting Thakral. Thakral is currently the Director General, Remount Veterinary Services (DG-RVS) of Army, a position he had taken over after his promotion to rank of Lt Gen.
Sharma had alleged his promotions got affected due to "illegal" decisions of the selection boards to promote Thakral as a "stand alone" candidate. Allowing the plea, the court said, "Respondent (Thakral) could not compete with his own 1974 batch mates and was not empanelled when he was first considered for appointment as a Major General. While being considered as a review case, he had to be considered along with the next available batch which was being accorded its fresh consideration.
"Consideration and selection could be effected based on the comparative merit of the overall profile of the officers. Instead the respondents have conducted facades of selection processes wherein he was the sole candidate... The illegal purpose was to ensure that only he was considered, selected and promoted to senior ranks irrespective of his comparative or relative merit."
Sharma had protested against Thakral's promotions, but no action was taken on his plea then. The Military Secretary's office had issued a note on September 26, 2011, declaring that Thakral had been empanelled as a fresh case of 1975 batch for promotion to the acting rank of Lt Gen. The Armed Forces Tribunal dismissed Sharma's plea and later, he moved the court, which, not only quashed Thakral's promotions but warned the Army saying such appointments would have "far-reaching and disastrous" consequences.
Asking the Defence Ministry and others to pay Rs 25,000 cost to Sharma, the court asked them to take corrective steps within six weeks. The ministry was also told to "hold a Special Selection Board for effecting promotion to the rank of Lieutenant General (DG RVS) for eligible officers" relating back to eligibility as on August 18, 2011.