The Supreme Court has stayed an Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) verdict directing the central government to treat all the commissioned officers of the Military Nursing Service (MNS) on par with the regular army.
An apex court bench of Justice Aftab Alam and Justice R.M.Lodha passed the order on a petition by the central government challenging the March 30 verdict of the principal bench of the AFT. The apex court passed the stay order on Wednesday but it was only made available Friday.
By its verdict, and AFT bench of Justice A.K. Mathur and Lt. Gen. (retd.) M.L. Naidu quashed the April 30, 2004 letter issued by the adjutant general’s branch and directed the government to treat ‘all the commissioned officers of Military Nursing Service as apart of the regular force of Indian armed forces and extend all entitlements which are commensurate with the rank as equal to commissioned officers of Indian Army to her (Maj. Gen. Usha Sikdar)’.
Sikdar is a former additional director general of the MNS.
The April 30, 2004, letter issued by the adjutant general’s branch said that Indian Military Nursing Service officers were not covered under the definition of officer as given in the Army Act, 1950.
The letter further said that MNS was raised vide Indian Military Nursing Ordinance 1943, and MNS officers are appointed as ‘officers of IMNS and not that of the regular army’.
The letter came on a complaint by Sikdar on the ‘humiliation meted out to her’ by the then commanding officer of INHS Asvini, Mumbai (Rear Admral V.K.Singh) by denying her an authorised staff car with star plate and flag signifying her status as a major general.
The AFT noted that it was true that Sikdar was not recruited under the Army Act, 1950 but she was recruited under Military Nursing Ordinance, 1943 and as per the provision of the ordinance as well as the rules, Sikdar had been ‘fictionally treated as a regular member of the armed forces though she was not directly recruited under the Amy Act, 1950 and the rules framed there under’.
The AFT said: ‘Simply by a technical objection as per Section of Army Act 3 (XVIII), she cannot be treated not to be a part of Indian Armed Forces or commissioned officer under the Army Act that will not distract from the fact that she will be treated at par with the officers of the Indian Armed Forces’.
In conclusion the AFT tribunal said that ‘hence, it is clear that she (Sikdar) is a regular commissioned officer of the Indian Armed Forces and she is authorised to all entitlements and benefits which a regular officer entitled under the Army Act, 1950 and rules framed there under.