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Cannot allow disclosure of selection notings: Armed Forces Tribunal


New Delhi : The Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has held that confidential file notings in selection board proceedings of senior officers is privileged information and cannot be disclosed to the public, including the individual concerned, as it can be detrimental to the interests of the nation.

The importance of confidentiality is that the communication contained in the board proceedings, if made public, will act as a deterrent for civil servants to convey honest and forthright views which would be detrimental to the larger interest of the functioning of the government, the tribunal said.

A Major General of the 1986 batch had moved the tribunal, challenging his non-empanelment for promotion to the rank of Lieutenant General. He had averred that he had a consistent and excellent record of service, but wasn't given a fair opportunity in career progression and was a victim of institutional apathy.

The Army had contended that the reasons recorded in the proceedings of the Special Selection Board (SSB) for not promoting the officer were “unpublished official records”, which were covered under the category of “privileged documents” and their contents were not open for communication.

“At this stage, the question arises as to whether the reason for non-empanelment of the petitioner to the rank of Lieutenant General and the recommendations and the remarks of the board/ speaking orders recorded in the confidential file notings of the government can be made public? We answer the question in negative,” the AFT Bench comprising Justice Rajendra Menon and Lt Gen CP Mohantry ruled.

“No doubts the courts have resisted from accepting the “sealed cover procedure” adopted by parties, but it is our conscious opinion that the decisions of the SSB are based on in-house deliberations of a committee of highest-ranked Army officers, the of which is conducted in utmost confidentiality with the sole purpose of selecting the best officers from the available candidates.

“It is our considered opinion that in light of the principles laid down by the Supreme Court, confidential communication with respect to selection of officials to higher appointments with stated by various stakeholders in their official capacity are liable to be challenged or quoted out of context, and the protection granted under law for non-disclosure of privileged document is worthy of consideration in the case under examination,” the Bench observed.

The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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