CIC: Disclosure of ACR of the military personnel has been expressly barred; Components of SRMB recommendations primarily consist of the report of the IO & RO, which is based on the assessment of performance of the officer vis-a-vis his medical category
The appellant has sought the following information:
1. Certified copy of the document containing recommendations of No. 3 Special Review Medical Board (SRMB) held on 29.05.2018 in his regard, result of which was promulgated vide Military Secretary’s Branch/MS-5 letter no. A21508/3SRMB/Results/MS-5 dated 04.06.2018.
2. Name and designation of the person who has taken the decision to grade him as “Z”, that is unfit for physical promotion to the next rank which has been promulgated vide Military Secretary’s Branch/MS-5 letter No A21508/3SRMB/Results/MS-5 dated 04.06.2018 and the certified copy of noting/record/document on which the ibid decision was taken and approved.
3. Copy of the document where reason/reasons for grading him as unfit for physical promotion to the next rank, which was promulgated vide Military Secretary’s Branch/MS-5 letter No A21508/3SRMB/Results/MS5 dated 04.06.2018. If reason/reasons for the grading have not yet been documented, the reasons for the same.
4. And other related information.
Grounds for Second Appeal
The CPIO did not provide the requested information on paras 1(a)-(d) and 1(f) of the RTI Application.
Submissions made by Appellant and Respondent during Hearing:
The Appellant stated that the information sought at Paras 1(a), (b) and (c) of the RTI Application has been incorrectly denied by the CPIO citing the Commission’s earlier order in File No. CIC/AT/2006/00069 dated 13.07.2006. He further stated that the said case pertains to the subject of Departmental Promotion Committees which are similar to Selection Boards, while his case pertains to a Special Review Medical Board. He drew a distinction between these two boards and stated that the Selection Boards are conducted for selecting officers for promotion based on inter-se merit of the officers in a batch, in which their ACRs (which are confidential in nature) are considered apart from their performance and appraisal. However, SRMB is held for officers who are already deemed FIT for promotion and just to submit recommendations of these already selected officers of the low medical category regarding their suitability for physical promotion and employment. SRMB thus affects these officers individually without any competition/merit comparison with any other individual. He further pointed out that even in the extant Army policy of Classification and Handling of Classification of Documents, only the Selection Board figures as Classified not the SRMB. Lastly, he stated that the pressing need for securing this information is evident from the fact that even as on date he is placed in the same medical category as he was at the relevant time, yet he has been promoted as on date, which shows that there was something perhaps amiss in the averred SRMB. However, he emphasised further that despite having got the promotion, he is still in a disadvantageous position in his career and has faced losses financially as he has not been assigned a Command position by virtue of him being declared UNFIT by the averred SRMB.
The CPIO submitted that the Appellant is partially correct however the SRMBs are akin to the Selection Boards in the sense that the report of IO and RO in that medical category is the deciding factor in SRMB and this report is confidential.
The Appellant at this point, submitted that in consonance with Section 10 of the RTI Act the part of the record which is not confidential in nature can be disclosed by the CPIO as has been held by the Commission in the order dated 13.07.2006 (supra).
The CPIO clarified that the remaining part of the record concerns the medical aspects of the Appellant which is already known to him therefore the question of severability does not arise. The Appellant did not refute the claim of the CPIO that the medical aspects of the SRMB are known to him.
The Commission notes that the guiding principle in matters concerning the ACRs of military personnel has been laid down by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the year 2008 in the matter of Dev Dutt Vs. Union of India & Ors. dated 12.05.2008 wherein, disclosure of Annual Confidential Reports (ACR) of the military personnel has been expressly barred. Now, the Commission observes from the proceedings during the hearing that the submissions of the CPIO stating that the components of the SRMB recommendations primarily consist of the report of the IO & RO, which is based on the assessment of the performance of the officer vis-a-vis his medical category, has not been contested by the Appellant. Further, the Appellant is also privy to the remaining part of the recommendations that consists of his medical aspects; therefore, the Commission does not find any reason to interfere with the reply of the CPIO or to allow severance of the records.
In view of the foregoing observations, the Commission upholds the reply of the CPIO and is constrained to not provide any relief in the matter.
The appeal is disposed of accordingly.
Vanaja N. Sarna
Citation: Col. Deepak Choudhary v. RTI Cell, Addl DG MT (AE), IHQ of MoD (Army) in File No.: CIC/ARMHQ/A/2018/632899, Date of Decision : 29/10/2020