‘National interest above self-interest’: HC on Army officer’s plea seeking extension of Mumbai posting for disabled child’s treatment
Observing that “national interest is above any other interest, including self-interest” for an Indian Army officer, the Bombay High Court has disposed of a writ petition filed by a lieutenant colonel posted in Mumbai challenging an order of the Military Secretary Branch refusing his request for extension of his tenure in Mumbai.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Makarand S Karnik on July 14 passed a judgement on the plea by the officer challenging orders of the Military Secretary Branch (Artillery) and others. The petitioner had sought an extension so that he could provide special treatment to his completely disabled son, which according to him was only available in Mumbai.
The bench said it was “not insensitive towards the child’s need” and was “conscious that he would require the constant presence of his parents”. However, it said that “the sentiments of sympathy” cannot form the basis of granting relief in the matter. The bench noted that the “petitioner was not being reasonable in his approach despite staying in Mumbai for over a decade and ought to have realised that there are over 100 officers waiting in queue for posting in Mumbai on similar grounds”.
The petitioner, through advocates Kranti LC and Kaustubh Gidh had challenged two orders from 2016, one of which rejected his request for posting in Mumbai. The other order refused his request seeking an extension of his tenure in Mumbai and he was asked to indicate his choice of stations within seven days, failing which the posting order would be issued by the authority based on inputs available with it.
The army officer, who has two sons, had insisted on continued posting as his elder son has a 100 per cent disability requiring special treatment, which, according to him, was available only in Mumbai. The court noted that it was perfectly understandable that the “concerned father would seek to secure the wellbeing of the child and leave no stone unturned for continued posting in Mumbai”.
A bench of the HC on February 12, 2016, had stayed the transfer order and his stay was extended from time to time. Thereafter, another bench vacated the interim stay, which was later restored by the Supreme Court.
Advocates B B Sharma and Suresh Kumar, representing the respondent military authority, said the petitioner had overstayed in Mumbai for more than two years as his request was limited till his child attained 15 years of age, which is the transition stage of rehabilitation, in May 2020, and therefore, the plea had become infructuous and should be disposed of.
CJ Datta, who authored the judgement for the bench, observed, “We, the countrymen, take pride in having a defence force composed of personnel who are willing to lay down their lives without any sense of fear or feelings as to what might happen if they are not there. For them, national interest is above any other interest, including self-interest. As an officer associated with the defence of the country, which is of paramount importance, we expected the petitioner to be rational in his approach and actions and place national interest at the forefront. The facts and circumstances, somehow, impel us to observe that he lacks fraternal feelings. We say no more.”
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