Before Pulwama, Centre Had Opposed Salary Hikes to CRPF in SC
With the devastating terrorist attack on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy in Pulwama on 14 February left, that left over 40 jawans dead, questions have been raised about the security lapses and the difference in resource allocation for CRPF personnel.
According to a report in India Today, former CRPF officers believe that they are not “treated on par” with the army, even though they operate as first responders in insurgent situations.
Despite this, the Union Government opposed a request to upgrade the pay of CRPF and other Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) officers, to ensure that all officers serving from a particular time were given an increase, regardless of rank. This stance was taken despite such upgradations being applied to other government officers, including in the IAS and IPS.
What Had the CRPF Requested?
The concept of a ‘Non-Functional Financial Upgradation’ (NFFU) had been introduced by the Sixth Pay Commission in 2006 for government servants in light of the lack of promotional avenues. This was meant to ensure officers didn’t lose motivation, and that salaries and pensions didn’t stagnate in situations where the personnel weren’t at fault.
Initially, it only applied to IAS officers from the ‘Organised Group A Services’, but it was subsequently expanded to the Indian Forest Service and the IPS as well. The CAPF also wanted this to be applied to them, but the Centre refused to extend it to them as these services didn’t fall within their definition of ‘Organised Group A Services’.
The CAPF officers challenged the government decision in the Delhi High Court which granted their request. The Centre opposed the case, saying that granting NFFU for CAPF personnel would adversely affect operations and functionality.
Military law expert Major Navdeep Singh, writing in Bar & Bench, found this stance was “incongruous”, since the upgrade:
“would have contributed in increasing the motivation level of the women and men in uniform operating in difficult and trying circumstances. The reality was in fact the other way round since the functioning was rather affected because of non-grant of [NFU] since at various places, senior uniformed officers were getting a lower pay and lower grade of facilities than civilian officers of other Group-A services directly serving them as their juniors.”
Major Singh argues that the CRPF and other such forces were the ones which faced maximum stagnation in terms of promotions and pay – to not grant the upgrade to them therefore defeated the very purpose of the NFFU.
Supreme Court Rejects Central Government’s ‘Strange’ Stance
This view was affirmed by the Supreme Court on 5 February 2019, after the Centre appealed the Delhi High Court decision. According to the bench of Justices MR Shah and Rohinton Nariman,
“The purpose of granting NFFU was to give relief to Group A Officers facing the problem of stagnation as fallback option when regular promotions do not come into various factors. It has come on record that CPMFs are facing huge problems of stagnation, more particularly, on one hand they are not being granted the promotions as most promotional posts are filled by deputation, and, on the other hand, they are denied NFFU.”
The central government had raised the same objections in its appeal, which were rejected by the court, which held that all Grade A officers of the CAPF were eligible for the upgrade.
Given the conditions, the CRPF and other CAPF personnel (like the Border Security Force) have to operate in, it is strange that successive governments would deny improved benefits to the officers. Granting NFFU wouldn’t even necessarily put them at par with the army and other services, so this reticence by the UPA government before the Delhi High Court, and by the Modi government (which claims to have the interests of the armed forces at heart) before the Supreme Court, is puzzling to say the least.
As Major Singh points out, “this exercise should have been initiated with full grace and humility after the High Court decision, rather than taking the matter into appeal.” The decision of the apex court should at least go some way to helping the CAPF officers feel they are being treated more equally.
The question will now be how soon the Centre implements the Supreme Court’s decision, and whether it will continue to oppose requests by other cadres for granting NFFU, which are currently being heard by courts and tribunals.
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