Setting aside its usual reluctance to intervene in transfers, the Madras high court quashed the Army’s orders posting a soldier on the verge of retirement from Chennai to Kashmir.
“It is said the measure of civilization is how the judiciary treats people who are at the dawn of their lives and those who are in the twilight of their lives… It applies to all those who exercise power and authority, including Army authorities,” said Justice S Vimala, while coming to the rescue of Havildar B Sakthivel.
Justice Vimala said, “This court is too shocked to hear that care and concerns of soldiers are routinely treated in a rather casual and careless manner with absolute impunity, ignoring their sterling role in keeping the nation safe and secure.”
Sakthivel joined the Army on June 25, 1994. After 24 years of service, he is due to retire on June 25, 2020. During his tenure, he worked in Jammu and Kashmir for more than 10 years. As he neared superannuation, he was posted in Chennai on last leg transfer for 36 months commencing from April 30, 2016. After the completion of a year and 10 months in Chennai, he was transferred to Kashmir on August 20.
Claiming that his presence in Chennai was critical, as he had to look after his pregnant wife, disabled father and two children, Sakthivel pleaded with the Army not to transfer him. As the authorities rejected his request, Sakthivel moved the high court. The Army said Sakthivel requested discharge from service on October 6 saying he was not able to concentrate on his official duties.
Later, he withdrew his request on November 12. It said the Army had no ill-will against him.
Justice Vimala, however, pointed out, “The challenge itself is not on the ground of ill-will or malafide, but, only on the ground that he is under compelling circumstance to seek his retention at Chennai.”
Empathising with the soldier, the judge said, “The plea for discharge is the significant factor that would show that he is under a compelling circumstance to remain at Chennai and that drove him to go to the extent of seeking discharge from service. Therefore, this would be an additional factor for the authorities to consider his retention at Chennai.”