Slamming the Navy for arbitrarily denying promotion to a nuclear submarine specialist officer allegedly victimised by a senior Vice Admiral who wanted to promote only his son-in-law, the Armed Forces Tribunal has ordered the force to promote him to the rank of the Captain, years after his retirement.
The officer Commander SS Luthra was one of the elite officers trained in Russia, to handle the nuclear reactors of India's nuclear submarines INS Arihant and INS Chakra, who had to quit the force allegedly due to discrimination, his counsel Ankur Chhibber told ANI.
This is the second time that the Armed Forces Tribunal has given a judgment in favour of Luthra as in 2017 it had asked the Navy to hold a fresh promotion board for him after it was found that a senior Vice Admiral in-charge of officers working on nuclear submarines manipulated the system in a way that only his son-in-law got promoted while others were overlooked.
The tribunal had also expunged the marks given to Luthra by the senior Vice Admiral.
However, the review promotion board held in 2018 also did not promote him as the tribunal found that the officer was given low-value judgment marks by the members of the board.
Taking a strong view against the review promotion board, the Armed Forces Tribunal bench headed by Chairman Justice Rajendra Menon said, "Clearly, arbitrariness, contrary to the policy and against the principles of natural justice, is writ large in the Special Review Board and therefore, it is liable to be set aside."
The court also did not show faith in the Navy to carry out a fresh promotion board for the officer saying, "In these circumstances, sending back the case to the respondents to reverse the apparent injustice is most likely to be an exercise in futility and will result only in further delay in justice being delivered to the officer," Menon said in his order.
The court stated that it was satisfied that the Navy's special promotion board did not conduct its exercise in the manner it was supposed to do. "The Tribunal is duty-bound not only to protect a person from being subjected to violation of law but to advance justice and not to thwart it," it said.
Giving directions to the Navy to promote the Luthra, the order said, "The officer is entitled to promotion and will be promoted notionally and granted the substantive rank of Captain from the original date of his batch. He will be entitled to pay accordingly till the date of retirement and thereafter, pension and terminal benefits for his enhanced rank of Captain," the tribunal said.
Luthra, in his original plea, had alleged that the Vice Admiral was the senior reviewing officer (SRO) for officers serving in both INS Chakra and INS Arihant from 2010-12 as the inspector-general, nuclear safety-officer in-charge, for securing nuclear submarines and secret projects of the force.
It was alleged that the Vice Admiral manipulated the naval system in such a way that he has been either reviewing officer or senior reviewing officer for his own son-in-law on various occasions.
Due to this, other officers who were being considered in the same promotion board as his son-in-law stood at a disadvantage, the petition had claimed.
The Navy and the Vice-Admiral had gone to the court against the Tribunal order in 2017 but it was rejected and the senior officer was asked to pay a reduced fine of Rs 1 lakh from Rs 5 lakhs to Luthra.
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