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Permanent Commission: Supreme Court directs 3 naval officers to approach Armed Forces Tribunal

Senior Advocate Singh informed the court that respondents in their Counter Affidavit have mentioned that the criteria for grant of Permanent Commission is in accordance with paragraph 96 “(vii) of 2021 SCC online SC 261. Union of India & Ors v. Lt. Cdr. Annie Nagaraja & Ors:

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The Supreme Court has directed the petitioners, who are male and female Short Service Commission Officers of the Indian Navy, challenging the rejection of their claim for Permanent Commission, to approach the Armed Forces Tribunal. 

A Division Bench of Justice Dr Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud and Justice M.R. Shah was hearing connected matters challenging rejection of claim for the grant of Permanent Commission or alternatively seeking pension as decided in Union of India & Ors v. Lt. Cdr. Annie Nagaraja & Ors.

The apex court further directed the Armed Forces Tribunal to consolidate the original applications of the petitioners, who have instituted proceedings before different benches of the Armed Forces Tribunal, to be heard at Principal Bench at Armed Forces Tribunal, New Delhi, along with similar matters raising the same issues. The apex court set a deadline of October 31 to dispose of matters.

“Interim order dated December 30, 2020, protecting the services of the petitioners Commander Amit Sharma, Commander Y.K Singh and Commander Paramjit Soodan from retirement of Short Service Commission, will be continued,” said the bench. 

Further it was stated by the bench, “In the matters where no representation had been filed before the Armed Forces Tribunal, were granted the liberty to approach the Armed Forces Tribunal for the same, they would be heard together with the other matters.”

Senior Advocate Chander Uday Singh, appearing for a batch of petitioners in Writ Petition no: 1269/2020, informed the court that out of 10, seven petitioners have been granted Permanent Commission during the pendency of the petition, three petitioners have not been granted Permanent Commission, namely, Commander Amit Sharma, Commander Y.K. Singh and Commander Soodan.

Senior Advocate Singh informed the court that respondents in their counter-affidavit mentioned that the criteria for grant of Permanent Commission is in accordance with paragraph 96 “(vii) of 2021 SCC online SC 261. Union of India & Ors v. Lt. Cdr. Annie Nagaraja & Ors:

(I)The applications of the serving officers for the grant of PCs shall be considered on the basis of the norms contained in Regulation 203 namely:

(Ii)availability of vacancies in the stabilised cadre at the material time;

(iii) determination of suitability;

(iv) recommendation of the Chief of the Naval Staff. Their empanelment shall be based on inter se merit evaluated on the ACRs of the officers under consideration, subject to the availability of vacancies.”

Senior Advocate Singh apprised the court that one of the original petitioner who has now been granted Permanent Commission, Commander Pola, on February 14, 2020 was denied permission to join as Director, Business Development, EDCIL India (PSU), stating he could not be spared due to lack of manpower in the education department. Similarly, petitioner 2 Commander Yogendra Kumar Singh, was offered a position of a scientist in the Indian Meteorological Department, but was again denied as he could not be spared for lack of man power, leaving the petitioners high and dry.

He said, Grant of Permanent Commission was governed by Navy Order Special 05/05; this was modified on October 20, 2009, amendment of Naval Order Special paragraph 2 says:

The grant of Permanent Commission to SSC officers is governed by Chapter 9, Article 203 of regulations, Navy Part-III statutory and is subject availability of vacancies, presently there is no formal endorsement made by the Initiating Officer, while rendering the ACR of the SSC officers regarding suitability for grant of Permanent Commission, it will be decided to formalize the same, by inclusion in Form 475-C.

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Senior Advocate Singh further informed the court that in Education Department, Grant of Permanent Commission could only be considered for those who have been commissioned for service only after, January 1, 2009, which excludes the petitioners from even being considered. Even though the petitioners were not eligible for Permanent Commission, they were granted multiple extensions as their service records were outstanding.

Advocate Anant Vijay Palli informed the court that the petitioners represented by him, who are lady officers have now retired.

Senior Advocate Paramjit Patwalia stated that the petitioner represented by him was an intervener in 2021 SCC online SC 261. Union of India & Ors v. Lt. Cdr. Annie Nagaraja & Ors, yet she was not considered for a Permanent Commission.

To conclude, Justice Chandrachud said: “I have the highest respect for these officers, sending them to Armed Forces Tribunal is not the happiest thing in the world for us, but we are also bound by the discipline of law. Look at the best and worst case scenario, best case is if you are granted Permanent Commission or Pension the case ends there, the worst case scenario is you are not granted Permanent Commission or Pension and you have to come back to us, but the normal hierarchy has to be followed.”

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