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Union of India (UOI) and Ors. Vs. Manomoy Ganguly - (Supreme Court) (10 Nov 2017)

Board Members are empowered to assess and award the marks



In facts of present case, Respondent belongs to the Army Medical Corps. He is the Major General and aspires to become Lieutenant General (Lt. Gen.), which is next higher rank in his cadre. First Special Promotion Board (SPB), for this purpose was held on 20th January, 2016 but he was not empanelled to the rank of Lt. Gen. by the said Board. His statutory complaint there against was partially redressed whereby an assessment of the Technical Officer (TO) in his Annual Confidential Report (ACR) of 2014 was expunged. This entitled him to fresh screening by Review SPB which held its meeting on 21st March, 2017. However, even Review SPB did not empanel him for the promotional rank. After exhausting departmental remedies in the form of statutory complaint etc., the Respondent approached the Armed Forces Tribunal ( 'AFT') and has finally succeeded as vide orders, the AFT has quashed the proceedings of Review SPB on the ground that, it had allotted wrong board marks to the Respondent. Directions are given to convene fresh Review SPB to consider him for promotion to the rank of Lt. Gen. in consonance with the parameters of relevant policies and his changed profile after allotting entitled board marks as stated in the said judgment, and to also restore his seniority. This appeal aims at questioning the correctness of the said judgment of the AFT.

As per the Promotion Policy, the Board Members are empowered to assess and award the marks. Award of these marks, not exceeding two, is based on the overall profile of the officer, exceptional achievements, appointments held, medical category, disciplinary background, field area-difficult area posting. Average of the marks awarded by all the Board Members present, out of two, is used to calculate the overall marks. The procedure for selection and promotion which is communicated vide Circular dated 14th January, 2004 issued by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), Government of India and as amended vide letter dated 17th May, 2006 enumerates basis for awarding two marks keeping the following criteria in mind.

From the facts, it is clear that insofar as award of 93 marks, out of 95 marks, is concerned that can be calculated arithmetically on the basis of ACR, academic qualifications as well as military awards and decorations. Discretion is given to the Board to give weightage out of 2 marks and while exercising these discretions the Members of the Board are supposed to keep in mind the overall profile of the concerned officer, exceptional achievements, appointments held, medical category, disciplinary background, field area--difficult area posting.

The Members of the Board are empowered to award marks out of the two marks which are reserved for them. For this purpose, it is not the ACR alone but the entire profile of an officer which is to be looked into. Insofar as, marks for ACR are concerned, these have already been awarded under the head 'average marks of ACR extrapolated out of 90'. It shows that, significant importance is attached to the ACRs as 90 marks out of 95 marks are to be assigned on the basis of ACRs. Therefore, it cannot be disputed that while awarding marks out of the two marks reserved for the Members of the Board, they can examine the overall profile of the officer and are not supposed to restrict it to the ACR alone. Board Members are the three Chiefs of Services and it can very well be presumed that, they would assess an officer in an objective manner. Indubitably, higher degree of trust can be reposed in them and their assessment is not to be interdicted unless very weighty and overwhelming material is produced warranting interference while undertaking judicial review of such an exercise.

The provision for assessment for promotion to Lt. General is same whether it is Army per se or Armed Medical Corps. The AFT is right in observing that in the meeting held on 20th January, 2016 Board Marks to all officers who are considered commensurate with the quantified marks of the candidates. Thus, the Board Members adopted the criteria of looking into the quantified marks as the yardstick for assessing overall profile. There is no reason to interfere with the directions given by the AFT. In any future selections, it would always be open to the Members of the Board to award the marks (out of 2 marks assigned for this purpose) keeping in view the overall profile of the officers as per Promotion Policy dated 14th January, 2004 and as amended vide letter dated 17th May, 2006. Instant appeal is, accordingly, dismissed.


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