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Delhi High Court refuses to entertain plea alleging arbitrary mechanism in gallantry awards selection

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The Delhi High Court on Wednesday refused to entertain a petition filed by a retired Army personnel, alleging that the mechanism for awarding gallantry medals to armed forces personnel was arbitrary and unconstitutional.

There are highly experienced and intelligent members in Awards Committee that scrutinises names for conferring medals, observed the Division Bench of Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh, adding that it was not even inclined to issue notice in the matter.

“We are dismissing with heavy cost because there are heavy allegations,” stated the Bench, while asking Advocate Vivek Anandh, appearing on behalf of the petitioner, whether he was willing to invite the order of the Court or wishes to withdraw the petition. Advocate Ananadh said he will withdraw the petition and the petition was disposed of as withdrawn.

Filed by a retired Army Colonel, the plea pointed out that the current system of awarding gallantry medals to armed forces personnel, which is generally given for conspicuous acts of valour done by them during peacetime or wartime, suffers from serious defects, in as much as there have been instances wherein acts of gallantry worthy of high recognition have been ignored and instead, non-gallantry acts have been awarded gallantry medals.

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The plea stated that these awards are regulated vide various notifications issued by the Office of the President of India from time to time, as to its form, selection criteria and benefits that will be given to the recipients of medals. 

It further stated that when the system of honours and awards came into India, the criteria was merit-based and not rank-based. However, over a period of time, the system of granting awards has slowly evolved into an unfair and arbitrary process, which lacks transparency. As a result, “serious cases of injustice are being meted out to deserving personnel of the armed forces,” the petition claimed.

In light of the above, the plea sought direction to declare the current system of awarding gallantry medals as arbitrary and unconstitutional, as the selection process was opaque and against the principles of fairness. 

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In addition, the plea prayed for framing appropriate, non-arbitrary and transparent guidelines governing conferment of gallantry medals to deserving armed forces personnel. The plea also prayed for setting up a review system to ensure that deserving names are not left out. 

The plea contended,

“The extant mechanism that considers each act of bravery by armed forces personnel individually for award of a gallantry medal is undefined and is opaque in its functioning. Coupled with the absence of any mechanism for review of a wrong decision, it has led to serious cases of injustice being meted out to deserving personnel of the armed forces. Apart from being a question of honour and recognition of their act of valour, this also plays a vital part in the morale of the forces as a whole.”

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