Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday withdrew a controversial order that had allegedly downgraded the status of military officers as compared to their civilian counterparts in the Armed Force Headquarters (AFHQ) in Delhi.

On October 18, 2016, the Defence Ministry in a letter had down-ranked the positions held by the Major General (Rear Admiral in Navy and Air Vice-Marshal in IAF) and had equated them to a principal director in the AFHQ Civil Service.

The letter had also made a Brigadier (Commodore/Air Commodore) with 25-26 years of service equivalent to a director (with about 14 years of service), and a Colonel/Captain/Group Captain to a joint director in the civil service.

This did not go down well with military officers and stoked a controversy. Those affected were of the opinion that the bureaucracy had worked over the years to cause the downgrading of their status, rank and pay.

However, Sitharaman's order put an end to it. "The letter of October 2016 on the issue of equivalence between armed forces officers and AFHQ Civil Service has been withdrawn with immediate effect on the orders of Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman," a defence official said.

Nirmala Sitharaman
Nirmala SitharamanMONEY SHARMA/AFP/Getty Images

"The cadre restructuring of AFHQ CS as approved by the Union Cabinet shall be duly implemented," the Defence Ministry said in a statement.

"Designations to be created in consequence of additional posts sanctioned by the Cabinet will be done in consultation with Service HQs," the ministry added.

The statement further said: "Local designations assigned both Service and Civilian Officers in Service Headquarters/InterService Organisations (ISOs) are hereby withdrawn. Both Service and Civilian Officers will use their respective cadre designations only."