Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar, in his message on Good Governance Day, asked his ministry to work towards reducing litigation in service matters, calling it a ‘priority’. “Minimization of litigation is a priority and I have instructed the concerned officers to evolve a policy for reducing court cases in service matters,” he said.
But it remains to be seen whether this is lip service or will actually mean acceptance of court decisions in service matters.
Consider the case of the salary of officers of the Army Medical Corps (AMC).
The Government of India had accepted the recommendation of the Sixth Pay Commission that all of its organized and unorganized medical service officers shall be entitled to four time-bound pay progressions over 20 years of service, as a scheme called Dynamic Assured Career Progression (DACP).
Orders were issued to enforce DACP in 2008.
The scheme was implemented in all departments and ministries under the government except the paramilitary and armed forces.
The opposition to DACP came from the Army, even though the Directorate General Armed Forces Medical Services, Navy and Air Force were in favor of it at the time.
The Army was against DACP because, if implemented, doctors would start getting more pay than other army officers and claimed it would upset the hierarchy.
The paramilitary forces had also expressed similar reservations.
But this argument was redundant since the same rules applied to all other government departments and was only an issue raised by the army and the paramilitary forces.
In any case, doctors were already getting more pay than others, so it was curious how the army decided that it would upset its hierarchy.
But ultimately the army prevailed on the Chief of Staffs’ Committee (COSC) of the armed forces which said that DACP should not be implemented till other pay commission anomalies of the defense services were resolved.
The main opposition to DACP comes from the army leadership.
So a government-sanctioned scheme was barred for military doctors by the COSC till the time the government addressed other anomalies of the defense services.
Unsurprisingly, AMC officers went to court, where the ministry submitted that the scheme would be implemented in due course and that it was a norm for the ministry to take the ceremonial nod of the COSC before any policy decision.
In 2011, the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) criticized the stand of the ministry and the armed forces stand in its judgment, saying, “The scheme has already been implemented in several Departments. However, the same has not been implemented in the Armed Forces for the reasons best known to them and the matter is hinging for the last about three years. This is clearly detrimental to the interest of the AMC officers. It ought to have been implemented much earlier by the Ministry of Defence and the concerned authorities of Armed Forces.”
In response, the ministry sought more time from the AFT for implementation of DACP.
But instead of implementing DACP, the ministry filed an appeal in the Supreme Court on the insistence of the armed forces where they again claimed that its implementation would disturb pay parity within the armed forces. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal in September 2013.
Then the ministry took up a case for review of the judgment of the Supreme Court but the Ministry of Law opined that there was no ground for review and the judgment, and DACP, had to be implemented.
Meanwhile, paramilitary officers had approached the Karnataka High Court which ordered the implementation of DACP for combatant uniformed doctors of the paramilitary forces. The scheme was then implemented by the Ministry of Home Affairs for its paramilitary doctors in March 2014.
The defense ministry realized there was not much else to do and placed the issue before the defense minister in May 2014 saying that there was no option left with them but to implement DACP.
But the armed forces remained opposed and were of the view that DACP should only be implemented for military doctors if the long standing demand of Non-Functional Upgradation (NFU) was accepted for other officers.
But DACP and NFU are different concepts, altogether.
While NFU has only been applied to Organized Group A Civil Services and has not been implemented for other Non-Organized Group A services or Commissioned Group A ranks of the military, DACP has already been granted to all doctors under the central government.
So while NFU has not even been recommended or implemented for the armed forces and only involved particular services, the DACP already stood granted to all doctors under the central government but has not been implemented for military doctors, because the military leadership has chosen to hold it hostage to recommendation and implementation of NFU.
In September, 2014, the Principal Bench of the AFT was informed that the defense minister had sanctioned DACP and it would be implemented within a period of four weeks.
Meanwhile, the COSC sent out a letter in October, after making a presentation to the defense secretary, saying:
In view of the serious command and control, functional and administrative problems which are likely to occur if DACP is implemented for AFMS officers, (Issues brought out in the ibid presentation), the recommendations of the Defence Forces on the issue are as under :-
(a) DACP to be granted to AFMS Officer (without promotion).
(b) Since NFU is not to be linked to implementation of DACP, all Defence Officers be granted
Concurrent Grade Pay Scheme (CGPS) simultaneously; wherein they will draw the same Grade Pay at 4, 9, 13 and 20 years of service as AFMS Officers; no extant parities with IAS/Group ‘A’ Officers will be disturbed.
(c) Resolution of Core Anomalies (incl NFU), applicable to Services (incl Doctors) to be examined concurrently by 7th CPC.
But at the next hearing, the defense ministry said the matter was pending with the new defense minister. The AFT then ruled that if DACP was not implemented by December 16, 2014, the tribunal would have to summon the highest authority.
But despite the Supreme Court order and the defense ministry statement recorded in the order of the AFT recognizing defense minister’s sanction to DACP, the armed forces remain intransigent in their refusal to allow the defense ministry to issue the sanction letter for DACP unless other anomalies related to the armed forces are resolved.
The COSC then moved a note to the defense minister that DACP should be held in abeyance, and scheduled a presentation on December 10, 2014 to convince Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar of this.
Following this, the AFT summoned the Defense Secretary R.K. Mathur to explain the ministry’s non-compliance himself on December 19, 2014.
With the defense secretary’s failure to present himself in front of the tribunal, the AFT has again summoned him on January 21, 2015, in case DACP is not implemented by then.
The armed forces and the defense ministry have forced litigation over an issue that should ordinarily not have been in contention, if they had implemented DACP after it was first issued in 2008.
Even now, six years later, the armed forces and the defense ministry continue to fight the implementation of DACP and violate Supreme Court rulings in this regard.
Perhaps, the defense minister could start reducing litigation by implementing DACP.