Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jammu and Kashmir High Court: A Single Judge Bench of Sanjeev Kumar, J., allowed a writ petition against the order of the respondent whereby the petitioner was declared unfit for the post of Constable (GD) in the Border Police Force.

The petitioner was subjected to a medical fitness examination by the respondent wherein he was found unfit due to “Gynaecomastia left”. The petitioner preferred an appeal against the order, however, he was again declared unfit by the review medical board vide the impugned order.

The Court perused the guidelines approved by the “Ministry of Home Affairs” for conducting the medical examination tests for recruitment of GOs and NGOs in the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFS) and Assam Rifles (AR) and observed that the candidates to review medical examination cannot be rejected only on clinical findings and such clinical reports should be supported by corroboratory investigation reports and if needed opinion of specialists/super specialists of government hospitals/medical colleges/government approved medical centres should also be taken into account.

The High Court held that the respondent had not followed the guidelines strictly and the review medical report was not supported by a proper investigation. Hence, the Court quashed the impugned order, as it was found to be cryptic, non-speaking and in violation of the guidelines issued for the purposes. It further directed the respondent to reconvene the review medical board and conduct the medical examination of the petitioner in accordance with the guidelines and if the petitioner is found fit in the re-examination then he should be appointed to the post of the constable without any further delay. [Narinder Singh v. DG of CRPF,2018 SCC OnLine J&K 398, dated on 10-07-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: The Division Bench of S. Ravindra Bhat, Deepa Sharma, JJ. has observed that though a member of the Armed Forces ungrudgingly consents to the risk that comes with his enlistment in the forces, he is still entitled to a safe workplace with standard equipment.

On January 04, 2005, while on a regular flight exercise, the petitioner’s MiG 21 aircraft burst into flames soon after takeoff; after all responses to save the aircraft failed he bailed out and sustained some injuries. A medical examination revealed that he was suffering from Cervicalgia (intense forms of pain, localized to the region of the cervical spine), and accordingly he was shifted to a non-flying category. Later, it was disclosed to the petitioner through RTI applications that the cause of the accident was a manufacturing defect and poor workmanship on the part of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. The Court of Inquiry had also found that the incident was caused due to the development of a fatigue crack in the welded portion of the afterburner manifold.

The High Court noted that the right to work in a safe environment applies to armed forces as well, and in the case of Indian Air Force, the employers are expected to ensure that the aircraft and the machinery is not compromised by substandard maintenance. The Court also noted that though the conclusions of the Court of Inquiry were available, the truth was withheld from the petitioner, and he could approach the court only after the RTI queries were responded to. Thus, the UOI was held liable to compensate the petitioner Rs. 5 lakhs for the trauma and agony which he had undergone, and HAL was held liable to compensate him Rs. 50 lakhs for the inadequate workmanship that it undertook for the aircraft. [Sanjeet Singh Kaila v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine Del 8170, decided on 02-5-2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Dismissing the present appeal wherein the appellant (enrolled as an airman with the Indian Air Force) had challenged the decision of the Air Officer Commanding for refusing his application seeking permission to keep a beard on religious grounds, since he is a Muslim, the three judge bench of T.S. Thakur, C.J., Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud and L. Nageshwar Rao, JJ., observed that regulations and policies with regard to the personal appearance of the Armed Forces in general and Air Force in particular were not laid down with the intention of creating discrimination between the officers on the basis of religion, rather the regulations have been implemented to ensure uniformity, discipline and order among the Air Force personnel, which also is an integral part of any armed force of the Union of India. The Court held that the appellant could not prove that his case lies within the exception enshrined in Regulation 425(b) of the Regulations of Indian Air Force, therefore the decision of the Commanding Officer in refusing to allow the appellant to keep his beard, was taken in the interest of maintaining uniformity in the Air Force and that the Commanding Officer was acting within his jurisdiction.

Regulation 425(b) of the Regulations of Indian Air Force, states that an air force officer can sport a beard or retain a beard only where there is a religious command which prohibits either the hair being cut or a beard being shaved. A per the policy clarifications issued from time to time, the status as regards to Regulation 425(b) is that any person joining service after 1st January, 2002 will not be allowed to maintain a beard unless his religion demands sporting a beard, and would be allowed to do so provided they were granted permission prior to the date of the letter or had grown a beard at the time of joining Air Force. On inquiring that whether keeping a beard is an integral part of Islam, the counsel for the appellant Shri Salman Khurshid stated that there are various interpretations and one of which states that it is ‘desirable’ to keep a beard.

Perusing the facts and the Regulation of Indian Air Force, the Court observed that as long as the provisions of Regulation 425(b) are not breached, a policy can be modulated and revisited for the interest of the Air Force and to ensure discipline in the Force which is paramount and is interconnected with the need to protect the nation against any threat. It was vehemently stressed by the Court that the Air Force being a combat force, it becomes necessary that all it’s officers and personnel are bound by the sense of Espirit-de-Corps without any distinction of caste, creed, colour and religion. [Mohammed Zubair v. Union of India, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1472, decided on 15.12.2016]