High Court backs Major’s cross-border love

The Indian Army has to pay Rs. 75,000 in costs to Major Vikas Kumar of Corps of Signals and Arnila Ranamali Gunaratne for refusing him permission to resign for the past one year, despite court orders, so that he can marry his Sri Lankan girlfriend.

A Division Bench, comprising Chief Justice Vikramajit Sen and Justice B.V. Nagarathna, passed the order while dismissing the appeal filed by the Ministry of Defence challenging single judge Bench’s order directing the Army to relieve him as per the Army Order (AO) 14/2004 MI, governing marriage to foreign nationals.

Citizenship issue

The Army did not permit Major Kumar (34) to marry Ms. Gunaratne (29), who has lived in Bangalore since 2003 and is pursuing her doctorate, as she was loath to renounce her Sri Lankan citizenship and opt for Indian citizenship as per the AO. It also turned down his request to relieve him from service, an alternative provided in the AO.

The Army cited non-completion of his mandatory period of service, 32 per cent shortage in the number of officers from Lieutenant Colonel rank and below in the Corps of Signals, his conduct being under investigation for unauthorised contact with a foreign national and failing to report it to the authority, for its inability to relieve him from service.

Global village

Observing that despite the world becoming “a global village” distrust and discrimination against foreign citizens remain the order of the day, the Bench said. “There are several instances where citizens betray their own country; there is no empirical data that a foreign spouse will invariably constitute a weak link in matters of national security.”

The Bench said that the reasons cited for refusing to relieve Major Kumar from service were afterthought, that too in the second round of litigations, and they were not cited in the order of rejection of his application to relieve him from service.

Observing that human rights must prevail in the event of confrontation between these rights and discipline in the Armed Forces, the Bench pointed out various international treaties, which India has acceded to, including Article 16(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, which says that “men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family…”

Compensation

While asking the Army to pay Rs. 75,000 jointly to the couple, the Bench also observed that second round of litigation was due to the Army’s obduracy. It said it does not propose any further observation against the conduct of Military Secretary (Premature Retirement) and other officers as already contempt of court proceedings had been initiated against them for disobeying its order.


  • ‘There is no empirical data that a foreign spouse will constitute a weak link in matters of security’

  • ‘Human rights must prevail in the event of confrontation between the rights and discipline’


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