Union of India vs Brigadier Javed Iqbal

Union of India vs Brigadier Javed Iqbal

Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले

                         CIVIL APPEAL NO. 2560 OF 2022
Union of India & Ors.               .… Appellant(s)
Brigadier Javed Iqbal              …. Respondent(s)
1. The appellants/Union of India & Ors. are before this
Court in this appeal, assailing the order dated 07.01.2022
passed   by   the   Armed   Forces   Tribunal,   Regional   Bench,
Lucknow (for short, ‘AFT’) in OA No.619 of 2021. Through the
said order the AFT has allowed the OA and held that the
respondent is entitled to promotion to the post of Additional
Major General (Litigation) in the Judge Advocate General’s
Branch   with   all   consequential   benefits   from   the   date   of
declassification   of   No.1   Selection   Board’s   result   on
05.05.2021.   The   order   was   directed   to   be   implemented
2. The brief facts are; the respondent is an officer of the
1989 Batch and is presently serving as Brigadier in the Judge
Advocate General (for short, ‘JAG’) branch of the Military. He
has put in 33 years of service. The respondent is presently
designated   as   the   Deputy   Judge   Advocate   General.   The
promotion to which the respondent claims entitled is to the
rank   of   Major   General   which   corresponds   to   the   post   of
Additional   Judge   Advocate   General.   The   rank   of   Major
General in the JAG Branch had fallen vacant on 01.12.2020.
The No.1 Selection Board comprising of (i) Chief of the Army
Staff,   (ii)   Vice   Chief   of   the   Army   Staff   (iii)   06   Army
Commanders and (iv) the Military Secretary, on consideration
in its meeting on 26.10.2020 recommended the respondent
for   promotion.   It   is   the   case   of   the   respondent   that   after
clearance by the Selection Board the Chief of Defence Staff
secured all information relating to the respondent, including
that he had scored 94.482 marks which was the highest. With
regard   to   the   query   relating   to   the   medical   status   of   the
respondent, it was intimated to the Chief of Defence Staff that
the   re­categorisation   Medical   Board   on   12.02.2021   had
indicated   that   medical   status   is   the   same   as   was   in   the
previous pre­categorisation Medical Board proceedings held
on   14.08.2018.   The   respondent   at   that   stage   had   been
classified as SHAPE­2 COPE­2. The Chief of the Defence Staff
was   also   informed   that   the   respondent   despite   such
classification continues to perform the duties of Deputy JAG
of the entire command which involves heavy workload. The
Chief of Defence Staff on considering all aspects, including the
medical condition, cleared the respondent for promotion as
the   medical   condition   indicated   would   not   be   a   hurdle.
Pursuant  thereto   the   competent  authority  also   granted  its
approval  for  promotion   of  the  respondent.  The  respondent
contends that the Central Government had also cleared but at
that stage, the Military Secretary who has no such power had
introduced   the   rider   interfering   with   the   promotion   of   the
respondent. The respondent contends that the No.1 Selection
Board had considered the medical condition in detail and the
Chief of Defence Staff as also the competent authority had
accepted the recommendation of the No.1 Selection Board.
However, despite all this since the benefit of promotion was
not accorded, the respondent filed an application before the
AFT seeking for the relief.  
3. The case of the appellant is that in the Indian Army,
every   staff   selection,   whether   it   is   an   appointment   or
promotion is done by following a prescribed procedure under
the Rules. The appointment/promotion is always subject to
meeting the medical criteria. An individual in the Indian Army
is   selected   to   the   higher   post   subject   to   medical   fitness
irrespective of  the  Branch  in  which  she/he  is  required to
serve. Even if selected, the promotion would be available only
if the medical criteria is satisfied. In the instant case, the
respondent   was   placed   in   low   medical   category   for
‘Hypertension’ P2 (P) with COPE Coding C201P1El which is
provided for in the Adjutant General’s Branch policy letter
dated 16.02.2018 as non­promotable category. However, the
Board   considered   him   and   recommended   for   promotion
keeping in view that he was placed in low medical category on
14.08.2018 during Annual Medical Examination and the next
Medical Board was due in August 2020, which could not be
held due to Covid­19. It is contended that the empanelment
pursuant to recommendation of the Selection Board cannot be
claimed as unconditional, since it is always subject to meeting
medical criteria. 
4. With   regard   to   the   medical   condition   of   the
respondent, it is contended that since he was suffering with
‘Hypertension’ the Annual Medical Board in 2018 advised him
to take two drugs daily to control his blood pressure within
the   permissible   parameters.   Although   re­categorisation
Medical Board held on 12.02.2021 found the respondent’s
blood pressure within the permissible parameters at 130/90,
his medical category remained the same i.e., P2(P) with COPE
coding C201P1El as he was still on medication. He had been
advised to continue on one drug i.e., ‘Telmisartan 40 mg’, to
be taken twice daily. Regarding the Re­medical board, it is
contended that it was held based on the orders of the Chief of
Army Staff on the request made by the respondent. In Remedical Board, the respondent’s blood pressure was found
within the permissible parameters and his medical category
was approved to be upgraded to SHAPE­I as he had informed
the medical specialist that he was not on any medication. The
appellant   contends   that   the   respondent   though   was   on
medication had falsely stated that he is not on medication. In
fact, he had stated in his appeal dated 07.05.2021 that he
was   only   on,   one   drug   medication.   In   that   view,   it   is
contended that since the applicant’s medical category was
still   P2(P)   with   COPE   coding   C201P1El   he   is   not   fit   for
promotion   despite   empanelment.   It   is   contended   that   the
guidelines are applicable to all, irrespective of the Corps and
Branch,   more   particularly   when   the   duties   are   to   be
discharged in high altitude areas between 9000 feet to 14000
feet, which the respondent was required to perform at least on
certain occasions if he was promoted to the post of Major
General.   It   was   contended   that   the   respondent   was   not
entitled   to   be   promoted   when   his   medical   condition   is
admittedly in SHAPE­2. 
5. The AFT having adverted to the rival contentions and
also on making detailed reference to the documents which
were placed before it has arrived at the conclusion that the
No.1 Selection Board had taken all aspects into consideration
and had thereafter empaneled the respondent. Further, AFT
had also taken into consideration that the medical category of
the respondent was upgraded to SHAPE­1 by a Re­Medical
Board held on 21.09.2021 after his blood pressure was found
within   the   permissible   parameters.   Hence,   taking   into
consideration the facts evolving in this case, the AFT has
allowed the application and directed grant of promotion. 
6. We have heard Ms. Madhavi Divan, learned Additional
Solicitor General appearing on behalf of the appellants, Mr.
Devadatt Kamat, learned senior counsel appearing on behalf
of the respondent and perused the appeal papers. 
7. The factual aspects insofar as the No.1 Selection Board
recommending   on   26.10.2020   the   case   of   respondent   for
promotion on obtaining 94.482 marks and at that stage, the
respondent   was   in   SHAPE­2   medical   category   is   not   in
dispute. The position is also that the Chief of Defence Staff on
securing details on 12.02.2021 had declassified the results on
8. The learned ASG placed strong reliance on the circular
dated 14.12.2012 relating to, system of Medical classification
of Army Officers and consequent eligibility for promotion to
select Ranks, which read as hereunder:­
“9.  Promotion   to   Select   Ranks   of   Colonel   and   Above.
Subject to meeting all other laid down conditions, officers
in following permanent medical categories are eligible for
promotion to select ranks of Colonel and above:­ 
Statement   of
(a) Overall   medical
classification   of
SHAPE­1   and
irrespective   of
number   of   medical
disabilities, ie, x, y,
z or CODE Coding.
Promotable   medical
categories, irrespective
of CODE Coding:­
(a) SHAPE ­1
(b) SHAPE­1B
 (b) Overall   medical
classification   of
(irrespective   of
number   of   medical
disabilities, i.e, x, y,
z),   with   disability
profile H2 or P2 (for
dental   condition
only)   or   E2,   which
will be considered at
par   with   SHAPE­1
for   promotion
irrespective   of   the
overall   COPE
Promotable   medical
categories, irrespective
of COPE Coding:­
(a) S1H2A1P1E1
(c) S1H1A1P1E2
 (c) Overall   medical
classification   of
(irrespective   of
number   of   medical
disabilities, i.e, x, y,
z),   with   disability
profile   A2   or   P2
(other   than   for
dental   condition
only)   or   H2E2,   if
overall COPE coding
is COPE­0 or COPE1.
Promotable   medical
categories,   only   if
overall COPE Coding is
(a) S1H1A2P1E1
(b) S1H1A1P2E1 (other
than dental)
(c) S1H2A1P1E2
12. Officers in permanent medical classifications, other
than those mentioned in Para 9 above, are NOT eligible
for   promotion   to   select   ranks,   less   those   eligible   for
consideration by Special Review Medical Board or granted
Battle   Casualty   (War   Wounded)   status   as   covered
9. In that backdrop it is also necessary to take note of
Defence Service Regulations for the Army, relied on by the
learned senior counsel for respondent, which in the preface
clarifies that departmental orders and instructions are based
on,   and   take   their   authority   from   the   said   regulations.
Regulation   67   of   the   Regulation   for   the   Army   relating   to
substantive promotion by selection, more particularly 67(b)
thereof provides as hereunder :­
“67. Substantive Promotion by Selection – (A) xxxxxxx
(a)  xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
(b)  Substantive promotion by selection to the rank of
Lt. Col and above will be subject to the medical fitness of
the   officer   concerned   for   active   service   and   the
permanent medical classification of an officer not being
other than S1 H1 A1 P1 E1, S1 H2 A1 P1 E1 or S1 H1 A1
P1 E2. An officer whose permanent classification is S1
H1 A2 P1 E1, S1 H1 A1 P2 E1 or S1 H2 A1 P1 E2 may
also   be   considered   for   promotion   provided   the
following conditions are fulfilled:­
(i) Such promotion would be in the public interest.
(ii) In the opinion of a Medical Board:­
(aa) the  officer   is   capable  of  performing
the  normal   active   service   duties   of
the   rank   to   which   he   is,   being
promoted,   in   his   present   medical
(ab) any defect, disability, or disease, from
which   the   officer   is   suffering,   is   not
likely   to   be   aggravated   by   service
conditions, provided he is employed on
duties   compatible   with   this   medical
category   and   within   the   restrictions
placed by the Board.”
(emphasis supplied)
10. The   case   of   the   respondent   was   in   the   medical
classification S1H1A1P1E2 referred to therein. It was subject
to   review   and   the   regular   Review   Medical   Board   had   not
happened in the routine period of two years due to Covid­19
restrictions. The Regulation 67 of Regulations for the Army
provides   that   an   officer   who   is   in   the   classification
S1H1A1P1E2 also can be considered for promotion provided
the   conditions   the   fulfilled.   Hence,   Regulation   67(b)(ii)(aa)
noted above provides that there is no absolute bar from being
considered   for   promotion.   Consideration   could   be   made
subject to the other criteria being met and the Selection Board
will have to keep in perspective these aspects. Though the
assessment   made   by   the   Selection   Board   is   only   a
recommendation, the approval to be granted by the competent
authority would be relevant. However, the nature of the post
for which the selection is made and the consideration made by
the   Selection   Board   would   also   remain   relevant.   In   that
circumstance, the nature of consideration made by the No.1
Selection Board forms a relevant basis more particularly in a
circumstance where in the instant case after recommendation
by the No.1 Selection Board, the Chief of Defence Staff had
also taken note of the medical status of the respondent and
taking into consideration the nature of duties to be performed
as Deputy JAG had cleared the respondent for promotion. 
11. The AFT having gone through the No.1 Selection Board
Proceedings, Records and file noting sheets of the Army, DMA,
MoD, noted the observations contained therein which enabled
the   AFT   in   arriving   at   its   ultimate   conclusion.   Since   the
sequence of nature of consideration made by the authorities
concerned   as   noted   by   AFT   becomes   relevant,   we   find   it
expedient to reproduce and notice the same which read as
hereunder :­
“(i)   No.1   Selection   Board   considered   the   applicant   for
promotion to the post of Additional Major General (Litigation)
in   JAG   Branch.   His   complete   details,   including   medical
status, and restrictions arising from this medical status were
available to the Board. 
(ii) The Military Secretary's policy letter on medical category
restrictions dated 14. 12.2012 was available to the Board. 
(iii)   No.1   Selection   Board   recommended   applicant   for   the
rank of Additional Major General in JAG Branch after him
being found fit in all respects for the rank. When Board
recommended the applicant for promotion it was aware that
he was placed in low medical category P2(P) for Hypertension
with COPE Coding C201 Pl El. 
(iv)   No.1   Selection   Board   recommended   the   applicant   for
empanelment to the higher rank of Major General without
any rider. 
(v) After applicant being recommended by the No.1 Selection
Board   the   file   was   processed   in   Department   of   Military
Affairs and perused at the level of the then Chief of the
Defence   Staff(CDS)/Secretary   DMA.   The   then   CDS,   had,
after   going   through   the   file   raised   two   queries.   The   first
query   on   19.11.2020   was   the   "case   needs   to   be   bench
marked with past boards". It was answered in the negative
stating that there was no such bench mark. While answering
the query it was also stated that when Brig Umesh Gupta,
Brig Devendra Singh and Brig Rakesh were considered for
promotion in their turn to Major General in JAG Branch the
“cut off'” marks were 91 and now the same was 93.5 whereas
applicant   has   scored   94.482   marks.   This   shows   that
applicant is on a better footing than those officers who had
been promoted earlier to the post in the past.
(vi) After the first query being replied the then CDS had
raised   another   query   on   12.02.2021   regarding   medical
status of the applicant, and in response to that query the
CDS   was   informed   on   file   that   in   the   re­categorization
medical board report dated 12.02.2021 his medical category
was the same as that which existed on 14.08.2018 during
his Annual Medical Examination, i.e. P2 (P) for Hypertension
with COPE Coding C201 P1 E1. It was informed by Army HQ
that "the officer has become low medical category (LMC) for
Primary   Hypertension   on   15.04.2018   and   the   officer   was
performing the duties of DJAG at HQ Eastern Command,
which involved heavy work load of all legal and HQ cases of
the entire Command. In spite of LMC the officer continues to
perform the duties of DJAG of the Command". The then
CDS, after considering all aspects and finding applicant's
medical category P2 (P) with COPE Coding C201 PI EI would
not be a hurdle in his promotion, had cleared the file for
approval by the Competent Authority of MOD/Govt of India.
There   was   nothing   on   file   to   infer   from   any   corner   that
applicant's   approval   for   promotion   to   the   rank   of   Major
General was subject to meeting medical criteria.
(vii)   After   No.1   Selection   Board's   decision   recommending
applicant for promotion to the rank of Major General being
cleared by the then CDS/Secy DMA without any rider, the
same was also approved by the Competent Authority of Govt
of India.”
12. The   learned   ASG   would   however   contend   that   the
medical   opinion   during   April   2018   records   that   the
respondent is diagnosed with primary hypertension and the
classification   was   indicated   as   SHAPE­2,   which   continued
ever since. Insofar as the employability of the officer with
COPE coding C201P1E1 it was noted that the officer is unfit
for high altitude i.e., 9000 feet and above. It is pointed out
that   in   the   re­classification   by   the   Medical   Board   on
12.02.2021 it was again stated that the serving officer was
detected to have hypertension during AME and ‘Telmisartan
40 mg’ tablet had been advised and the disability profile is P2
(P). The learned ASG further contended that as on the date of
declassification of result on 05.05.2021, it was indicated that
latest AME/RME/RMB etc. is to be forwarded within 15 days,
which   discloses that   the   medical   fitness   was   an   essential
factor to be taken into account. It is in that regard contended
that the respondent also being aware of this requirement had
filed   an   appeal   dated   07.05.2021   wherein   the   respondent
himself has admitted to these aspects of the matter and had
sought consideration since the respondent assumed that he
would not be required to serve in high altitude area for which
he   was   otherwise   unsuitable.   Further,   the   representation
dated 17.05.2021 was made by the respondent seeking grant
of waiver since he was aware about his disability. Subsequent
thereto,   on   31.08.2021   the   respondent   requested   for   reexamination   of   his   medical   category   so   that   it   could   be
upgraded   if   found   fit.   Such   medical   re­examination   was
sanctioned   and   through   the   medical   opinion   dated
20.09.2021   it   was   opined   that   the   respondent   is
‘asymptomatic’   and   he   is   not   on   any   medication   for
‘Hypertension’.   The   opinion   recorded   in   the   column,
‘diagnosis’   was   that   the   officer   is   upgraded   to   SHAPE­1.
Though the medical opinion is to that effect, the learned ASG
sought to dispute the same by referring to the observations
contained   in   the   communication   dated   22.09.2021   stating
that the opinion dated 20.09.2021 is not reliable since it was
based on the statement of the respondent himself which was
made to the doctor that he is not on any medication though
the earlier records indicate that he was on medication. 
13. Having   taken   note   of   the   contentions,   the   facts
involved herein appear to be peculiar to the case on hand.
Firstly, as noted from regulation 67(b), an officer in SHAPE­2
also can be considered for promotion provided the Medical
Board finds the officer to be capable of performing the normal
active service duties. In the instant case, the respondent is
the JAG officer and even if promoted would generally perform
his duties in the headquarters. It cannot be disputed that as
contended by the learned ASG the services may require him to
occasionally   go   to high altitude   areas.   In   that   regard,   a
consideration of the Medical Board opinion during April 2018
records   that   the   respondent   is   unfit   for   high   altitude
employability i.e., 9000 feet and above. As on the date of
consideration   by   No.1   Selection   Board,   undisputedly   the
respondent was in SHAPE­2 medical condition. Apart from the
fact that we have taken note of the observations of the AFT
from the records of the selection process we have referred to
the circular dated 06.05.1987 relating to selection process. It
is noted that as per the composition of the Selection Board for
the various ranks, it is indicated that No.1 Selection Board
would   consider   the   cases   for   promotion   from   the   rank   of
Brigadier to Major General which is relevant in the instant
case and No.1 Selection Board consists of the cream of officers
in the Rank. In the guidelines for conduct of Selection Board,
the aspects to be taken into consideration is delineated and
provides   for   the   eligibility   of   the   officer   to   be   considered.
Among   the   aspects   indicated   therein,   the   medical
classification of the officer is one of the aspects. Further, while
providing for objectivity in the selection process, apart from
the overall performance of the officer, the employability of the
officer in the next higher rank is to be kept in view by the
Selection   Board.   The   regulations   while   providing   for   the
consideration empowers the Chief of Army Staff to ultimately
take a decision. The role of the Military Secretary is only to
bring to the notice of the Chief of the Army Staff if the officer
concerned   has   been   graded   against   the   guidelines   in   the
board grading. 
14. In the background of the above, even if the primary
aspect of the respondent officer being classified as SHAPE­2
as on the date of consideration by the No.1 Selection Board
and as on the date of declassification on 05.05.2021 to which
detailed reference as made by the learned ASG is taken note
of, as rightly observed by the AFT the medical records were
available before the No.1 Selection Board and a conscious
decision was taken to recommend for promotion. As noted,
the guidelines provide for the Selection Board to take note of
the medical classification of the officer. That apart, for an
objective selection, the guideline requires the Selection Board
to keep in view the employability of the officer in the next
higher rank. In a matter of the present nature where the
selection was being made to a high rank from that of Brigadier
to   Major   General   and   that   too   in   JAG   branch,   the
employability of such officer and the nature of duties was also
to be kept in view. In the instant case, the only disability of
the officer concerned while in SHAPE­2 also is with regard to
the risk in high altitude service and the No.1 Selection Board
has kept in view the normal nature of work to be performed as
JAG (Litigation). In that view, the No.1 Selection Board should
be credited of having applied its mind before recommending
the case of the respondent. Further, after clearance by the
No.1   Selection   Board,   the   Chief   of   Defence   Staff   had   on
12.02.2021 taken note of the medical status of the respondent
and had approved the recommendation. When officers of such
high rank have applied their mind in the instant case and
approved the case of respondent for promotion the repeated
objection by the Military Secretary is not justified. 
15. The other aspect of the matter is that the respondent
having filed an appeal and having made a request for waiver
initially and thereafter for medical re­examination cannot be
held against the respondent. Though the Selection Board had
already   recommended   the   candidature   of   the   respondent
which had been approved by the Chief of Army Staff, the
respondent had sought for re­examination which is to his
credit   and   was   rightly   allowed.   The   Medical   Board   in   the
opinion dated 20.09.2021 (ANNEXURE A/10) has recorded as
hereunder :­
“This   57   year   old   serving   officer   was   detected   to   have
hypertension during AME in Apr 2018. He was evaluated
and   diagnosed   to   have   Primary   Hypertension.  He   was
advised   medication   BP   control   was   adequate.
Subsequently   the   officer   has   discontinued   medicine
for   last   one   year   as   recorded   by   AMS   and   BP   has
remained   within   normal   limits   (Photocopy   of   BP
recordings  by  AMA   attached).  He is being observed in
LMC   P2   (Permanent).   He   has   reported   for   remedial
exam/Board as per directions of the COAS vide integrated
HQ, MoD letter no. 76086/Gen/DGMS­5A dated 13 Sep.
2021. He is presently asymptomatic. He is not on any
medication for Hypertension.
3. DIAGNOSIS : Primary Hypertension 
Opinion:   This   57   year   old   serving   officer   is   a   case   of
primary hypertension.  He  has  adequate  blood  pressure
control  with   life   style  modification   for   one   year.   BP
control   remains   adequate.   He   has   no   target   organ
damage. In view of the above, the officer is a candidate
for   upgradation   to   SHAPE­I  (as   per   DGAFMS
memorandum No. 182 of 2012 Para 17 d)”
(emphasis supplied)
16. As   noted,   the   learned   ASG   disputed   the   same   by
referring   to   the   treatment   and   follow   up   booklet   which   is
produced   along   with   the   additional   documents   by   the
respondent himself to indicate that the observation recorded
in the chart as, ­ ‘not on medication’ on various dates is based
only on the oral statement of respondent made to the doctor
which   cannot   be   given   credence.   On   this   aspect,   it   is
necessary   to   note   that   the   medical   records   are   of   the
‘Command Hospital’ itself and not of a private practitioner.
The first date on which it is recorded as, ­ ‘not on medication’
is on 25.06.2020 and the same is continued thereafter. The
observations extracted above would indicate that the doctor
has categorically recorded that the blood pressure has been
controlled   with   lifestyle   modification   and   the   BP   control
remains adequate. When the opinion has been tendered by
the competent medical experts, merely because the Military
Secretary is not satisfied with the same will not entail either
the AFT or this court to sit as a medical expert and reassess
the opinion given by the Medical Board. 
17. Be that as it may, when the No.1 Selection Board had
taken note of the medical records as it existed earlier, in the
background   of   nature   of   employability   of   the   respondent,
which was approved by the Chief of Army Staff and further
when there is medical record to indicate that the medical
condition of the respondent has improved for the better and
the AFT while arriving at its conclusion has kept in view all
aspects of the matter, such consideration would not call for
18. The learned ASG further referred to the circular dated
07.09.2016, more particularly to para 3 thereof which read as
“3. Post declassification of Selection Board results the
empanelled officers are promoted in their turn based on
availability of vacancies, performance & medical fitness.
Given   the   time   lag   between   the   declassification   of
Selection   Board   results   and   physical   promotion   of   an
officer, there is a need to ensure that only 'those officers
who are in acceptable medical category are promoted to
the next higher rank. The actions to be taken by the
officers and their Reporting chain on empanelment and
during   physical   assumption   of   next   higher   rank   are
enumerated in succeeding paragraphs.”
In that regard, it is contended that given the time lag between
declassification of the Selection Board results and the physical
promotion of an officer, it should be ensured that only those
officers who are in acceptable medical category are promoted to
the next higher rank. The said requirement also cannot act as a
bar in the instant case, since as noted above, firstly there is an
improvement   in   the   health   condition   and   the   respondent   is
opined to be in SHAPE­1 by the Medical Board. Even otherwise
as noted, the medical condition was kept in view by the No.1
Selection Board and all competent authorities, in the backdrop
of   employability   and   there   is   no   other   additional   medical
disability acquired by the respondent during the period of time
lag, if any. 
19. For   all   the   aforestated   reasons,   we   see   no   reason   to
interfere with the order passed by the AFT impugned herein,
which   shall   therefore   be   implemented   forthwith.   The   appeal
being devoid of merit stands dismissed with no order as to costs.
20. All pending applications, if any, stand disposed of. 
      (A.S. BOPANNA)
New Delhi,
May 17,  2022


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