HC asks Centre to decide on control over Assam Rifles

Home, Defence Ministries have administrative and operational controls

Published - September 06, 2020 11:38 pm IST - New Delhi

There should not be any delay in taking a decision when it concerns the interests of servicemen and ex-servicemen, the Delhi High Court has remarked while giving ‘last opportunity’ to the Centre to take a call on the issue of bringing Assam Rifles out of the dual control of the Home Ministry (MHA) and the Defence Ministry (MoD).

“...It appears that in-principle decision has already been taken that Assam Rifles, like other CAPFs (Central Armed Police Forces), to fall under the exclusive control of MHA. However still the final decision appears to have been not taken,” a Bench of Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw and Justice Asha Menon said.

Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain, representing the Centre, stated that further six months’ time is required for taking the decision as it has been affected by the prevalent COVID-19 situation.

The High Court, however, noted that the issue has been pending for nearly three years. “The matter involves servicemen/ ex-servicemen and whose interest is not only to be paramount, but is proclaimed from various platforms of the Government, to be paramount,” it said.

No delay

“When a decision of such paramountcy is required to be taken, there should be no such delay therein,” the High Court said directing the Centre to take the decision within 12 weeks.

The HC requested the Ministers of Home and Defence, the Secretaries, Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Home Affairs, the Chief of Army Staff and the Director General of Assam Rifles and all other persons involved to cooperate in the decision making within the aforesaid time.

The direction came on a petition filed by Assam Rifles Ex-Servicemen Welfare Association seeking direction to the government for placing to bring Assam Rifles under one control, preferably under Indian Army (MoD).

Assam Rifles is a Central Para Military Force along with two other forces namely, Special Frontier Force and Coast Guard. However, only Assam Rifles functions under the administrative control of the Home Ministry.

“Hence, the administrative control of the Assam Rifles is with the Ministry of Home Affairs, the operational control of Assam Rifles rests with the MoD,” the petition said.

It argued that the objective and functions of Assam Rifles is that of a military and para-military force and its categorisation as a ‘Police’ force is “arbitrary, unreasonable and in violation of the rights of Assam Rifles personnel”.

“The greatest inequity affecting the morale of the Assam Rifles personnel operating alongside the Army on similar duties are the disparity in the pay scale of the two. Somehow the Assam Rifles personnel’s call themselves a ‘Cheap Army’,” the plea said.

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