New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has pulled up the Centre for failing to abide by the policy for selection of persons below officer rank (PBOR) of the Indian Army for being sent on a United Nations mission or an overseas tenure.
A bench of justices Gita Mittal and Deepa Sharma, however, allowed the government to post selected PBORs on UN missions, despite many of the personnel not meeting the eligibility criteria, including a minimum five-year-tenure with the unit concerned, on the ground that it would impact peace-keeping function of the Indian Army abroad.
The court directed the Centre to ensure that only eligible PBORs are sent on such offshore assignments in future.
"The respondents (Union of India and others) have failed to abide by the declared policy in effecting selection and nomination of PBORs from proceeding on UN missions....
"Keeping in view the urgency expressed and in the facts and circumstances of this case, as a one-time measure we permit the respondents to include such personnel to proceed on UN missions who were on the strength of 8 Rajputana Rifles on May 11, 2011 when the unit was identified for UN posting, without insisting on requirement of five-years tenure...
"It shall, henceforth, be ensured by the respondents that only the personnel who meet the eligibility criteria noted by us are shortlisted and are deputed for proceeding on the foreign missions," the bench said.
The order came on a plea of four army personnel of the 8 Rajputana Rifles challenging their posting to another unit after their unit was nominated and selected for a UN mission, resulting in they losing out on the opportunity.
Holding their posting out of the unit concerned as "illegal and arbitrary", the high court observed they were "clearly eligible" for the UN mission and directed the government to see in case they were "placed appropriately in seniority" then they be dispatched as part of the second contingent which is to go on a mission of the world body.
While disposing of the plea of the four PBORs, the high court also directed the Centre to "scrutinise the nominations which have been effected of personnel of 8 RAJ RIF selected for proceeding on the UN Mission pursuant to its nomination made on May 11, 2011. In case any malafide can be determined, action be taken against those responsible for such postings and nominations".
The four personnel had contended that their posting out of their unit after it was selected for a foreign mission was "motivated and guided by extraneous considerations".
The court observed that the "facts certainly support the submission of the petitioner(s)" and said that their posting out after their unit was selected and nominated for the mission abroad "reflects the illegality and arbitrariness of the action of the respondents".
It said that selection of an army unit or personnel for proceeding for a UN mission is a "prestigious" opportunity as it brings honour to the nation and thus, such decisions cannot be made as "if completing an idle formality".
"Selection of a unit as well as of an army personnel for proceeding on UN mission is prestigious selection. It is not only in the interest of the PBOR but is also an honour for the nation and glory of the Indian Army. This selection cannot be effected as if an idle formality was being completed as in the present case," it said.