SC sets aside Army's order discharging 4 personnel over alleged fake certificates, says AFT acted in casual manner


NEW DELHI, Feb 10: The Supreme Court on Friday (February 9) directed the reinstatement of four army personnel (selected in the general category) who were discharged from the service on the allegation of joining the service based on the false relationship certificate with ex-army personnel.
Setting aside the impugned order of the Armed Forces Tribunal ("Tribunal"), the Bench Comprising Justices Bela M. Trivedi and Pankaj Mithal, observed that the Tribunal has acted casually and routinely while affirming the discharge/dismissal order.
"The Tribunal in a casual and routine manner affirmed the discharge/dismissal order simply holding that the relationship certificates produced by the appellants have been found to be fake even upon verification.
The Tribunal also seems to have lost sight of the crucial point of the appellants that they have applied under the general category and not as relatives of servicemen/ex-servicemen. They have not produced the alleged certificate(s) which could be held to be fake. Accordingly, the core issue arising in the matter was missed not only by the authorities concerned but by the Tribunal as well. Thus, the order(s) of discharge/dismissal of the appellants and that of Tribunal stand vitiated for non-consideration of the material aspect."
The gist of the dispute was that the Maratha Light Infantry Regimental Centre ('MLIRC') a unit of the Indian Army had released an advertisement calling for eligible candidates to join the army services. The advertisement made a provision for filling up the seats, primarily by the candidates who were related to ex-army personnel or falling within some quota. It was further provided that in case vacancies for recruitment remain available with the Regimental Centre, personnel from open category based on merit may be taken.
The appellants-army personnel have applied to the services in the general category but were served with a show-cause notice immediately after three months of their joining the service. Thereafter, the appellants were terminated from the services on the note that they had produced a fake relationship certificate with ex-army personnel to join the service. Further, the Army supported the termination because the enrolment/recruitment was only meant for the relatives of the servicemen/ex-servicemen and was not open for the general category.
Vehemently opposing the Army's contentions, the appellant terminated personnel submitted that they had passed all exams and standards; they were not recruited based on the claim that they were relatives of any serving or ex-servicemen personnel rather they had applied under the general category and as such they did not have to have produced any relationship certificate.
There were a total of 20 such personnel who were terminated but only four of them have preferred the appeal before the Supreme Court against the impugned termination order passed by the Tribunal.
Observation by the Court
The court found force in the submission made by the appellants-army personnel and rejected the contention put forth by the Union/Army.
The court expressed displeasure with the manner in which the appellants were terminated/discharged from the services by the Army i.e., without even conducting any enquiries to find out the authenticity of the certificates produced by the appellants.
"In the above discharge certificate or the order of the Commandant, there is no whisper that any inquiry was conducted to ascertain or find out as to whether the appellants had actually produced relationship certificates for the purposes of enrollment/recruitment in the Army. No finding has been recorded by the respondents that the appellants had as of fact, produced such certificates or that their explanation claiming that no such certificates were furnished by them is completely false. In effect, the authorities have not dealt with the above explanations/claims of the appellants."
While referring to Paragraph 7 of the Advertisement, which calls for filling up the additional seats from the candidate of open category, the court disagreed with the contention of the Union/Army that the army personnels can't be allowed to continue in service as they have joined the service in an open category.
"A simple reading of the above Paragraph 7 clearly belies the stand taken by the defence that the above enrollment/recruitment was only meant for the relatives of the servicemen/ex-servicemen and was not open for the general category."
"The application(s) thus clearly establishes that the appellants appear to have applied as a general category candidate(s) against the surplus seats/vacancies remaining unfilled after considering the priority/reserved quota for relatives of servicemen/ex-servicemen, etc. In such a situation, when they have not claimed any enrollment/recruitment on the basis of relationship with servicemen/ex-servicemen, obviously there was no occasion for them to submit any relationship certificate.", the court added.
Given the aforesaid observations, the court allowed the appeal of the army personnels by directing the Union/Army to reinstate them back to the service and providing consequential benefits thereof.

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