The Indian Army's promotion policy, in effect since 2017, has been challenged in the Delhi High Court for its discriminatory rule against Intelligence Corps officers. A petition has been filed in the HC by Major General Sukhwinder Singh Kahara, challenging the incumbent policy, which excludes Intelligence Corps officers from being considered for promotion to the rank of Lieutenant General from the Non-General Cadre Staff Stream (NGCSS) vacancies.

As per the policy in question, officers from General and non-General cadre from all Arms and services, except Intelligence Corps and Army Aviation, are eligible for promotion to Lt. General posts in the NGCSS. Terming the policy discriminatory, the petitioner is seeking the quashing of the promotion policy.

Delhi High Court
Delhi High Court website

"The policy in question provides no reasons at all, for the exclusion of the Intelligence Corps from the scope of promotion within the same ... the promotion policy of the Respondents is discriminatory in nature and specifically ostracises and disentitles the Intelligence Corps ARM from the ambit of eligibility for even consideration for promotion," the petition stated, according to a copy obtained by Bar and Bench.

Controversy behind promotion of ranks in Indian Army

After an officer is commissioned into the Indian Army in the rank of Lieutenant, they are then promoted as Captain, then to a Major and on to Lt Colonel, which is determined by the selection board in respective streams. The ranks of Brigadier, Major General, Lieutenant General are then determined by a thorough selection by the board.

The petitioner has highlighted that the rank of Brigadier or higher is not available for officers in services to progress in the General cadre. After having reached the rank of Major General himself, Kahara holds the designation of Additional Director General Military Intelligence (B) in the Indian army. He is due to retire on December 31, 2021, however, his service will be extended by two more years if promoted to the rank of Lt. General in the NGCSS vacancy. His protest is regarding the promotion policy that excludes him from being considered for the higher rank.

Indian Army Tour of Duty
Representational Image/IANS

"The Head of Arm of the Intelligence Corps is an officer of rank of Lt. Gen from Infantry/ Armd/ Mechanised infantry or any other General Cadre officer ... for no stated reason or objective, the HOA of the Intelligence Corps also manning the post of DGMI comes from the General Cadre, (Non-Intelligence Corps) with little or no experience of intelligence based appointments. The Respondents have prescribed such qualitative requirements for holding the designation of DGMI that no intelligence officer will qualify for the said appointment. The reason is that no intelligence officer has the opportunity of acquiring such qualifications on account of the door being shut for them at every stage," the petition added.

Through this petition, Major General Kahara is hoping to create a vacancy at the rank of Lt General for officers to be promoted from Intelligence Corps.

In response to the petition, the Bench of Justices Manmohan and Navin Chawla have sought a response from the Centre through Ministry of Defence, Chief of Army Staff and the Military Secretary. The court has granted four weeks' time to file counter affidavit.