Harmony in Hierarchy: Supreme Court’s Delicate Balance in Resolving Air Commodore NK Sharma’s Promotion Dispute

As per Section 14(4) for the purposes of adjudication of dispute before it, the Tribunal has been vested with the powers of a civil court. Further we notice, that the Section itself expressly states that the Tribunal shall not have the powers exercised by the Supreme Court or that of a High Court under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India.

In Case of Union of India & ors v. Air Commodore NK Sharma (17038) ADM/LGL [CIVIL APPEAL NO. 14524 OF 2015] Facts of this case includes the Supreme Court of India involved in a dispute between the Union of India and Air Commodore NK Sharma, an officer in the Indian Air Force. The appeal centered around the non-consideration of Air Commodore NK Sharma for promotion to the rank of Air Vice Marshal (AVM) despite his eligibility and the existence of a legal vacancy. The Armed Forces Tribunal directed the Government to formulate a policy for filling the AVM JAG (Air) position, allowing the respondent to continue in service until the policy’s formulation and his consideration for promotion.

The Supreme Court, in its judgment provided a meticulous analysis that underscored crucial aspects of the case. The central point of contention revolved around the Armed Forces Tribunal’s directive to the government and its impact on Air Commodore NK Sharma’s promotion grievance.

Firstly, the Court shed light on the limitations of the Tribunal’s authority. It emphasized the separation of powers, clarifying that the formulation of policy lies within the executive domain and is beyond the judiciary’s purview. This foundational principle underscored the judiciary’s reluctance to dictate executive policy, signaling a restraint on the Tribunal’s directive to the government to formulate a policy for the AVM JAG (Air) position.

Secondly, the Court addressed the issue of the extension of service. It categorically stated that the Tribunal lacked the jurisdiction to extend the respondent’s service beyond the age of superannuation. This highlighted a key flaw in the Tribunal’s decision, pointing to a legal overreach that impacted the tenure of Air Commodore NK Sharma.

A critical aspect of the Court’s analysis was the finding that the respondent’s challenge was barred due to his prior participation in the Promotion Board. By participating in the board and only later contesting the absence of a policy for filling the AVM JAG (Air) vacancy, the Court found the respondent’s legal stance untenable. This sequence of events was deemed a procedural impediment, adding a dimension of fairness and equity to the Court’s reasoning.

Ultimately, based on these considerations, the Supreme Court concluded that the Tribunal’s judgment and order in favor of the respondent were unsustainable. The quashing of the Tribunal’s decision stemmed from a meticulous analysis of jurisdictional boundaries, procedural intricacies, and the overarching legal principles governing the case. The Court’s judgment highlighted a nuanced understanding of the interplay between executive and judicial functions, ensuring a balanced and principled resolution of the dispute.



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Written by- Komal Goswami


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