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During term of engagement, IAF member cannot depart from service: SC

By Anuj Cariappa

New Delhi, July 04: A person enrolled as a member of the Indian Air Force (IAF) does not have an "unqualified right" to depart from service at will during the term of engagement, the Supreme Court has said.

Hearing a plea filed by an airman, the court said a balance has been sought to be drawn between interests of service with situations involving requests by persons enrolled in the IAF to take civilian employment.

During term of engagement, IAF member cannot depart from service: SC

But interests of service are of "paramount importance", it observed.

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The airman has challenged two orders of the Armed Forces Tribunal, passed in 2012, by which his petition seeking direction for grant of a no-objection certification and for discharge from the IAF to join a civil post in a bank was dismissed.

"A person who has been enrolled as a member of the Air Force does not have an unqualified right to depart from service at his or her will during the term of engagement. Such a construction, as urged on behalf of the appellant, will seriously impinge upon manning levels and operational preparedness of the armed forces," a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta said in its verdict.

"With the rapid advancement of technology, particularly in its application to military operations, there has been a reconfiguration of the human and technological requirements of a fighting force," the bench said.

However, as nearly eight years have elapsed since the man left service, the bench said, no purpose will be served in directing his reinduction into the IAF.

The court said, "....We are of the view that the ends of justice would be met by directing that a final NOC and discharge be issued to the appellant no later than within a period of three months of the receipt of a copy of this order. At the same time, we are of the view that this should not be an unconditional direction."

"We accordingly issue an order in the above terms, subject to the appellant depositing with the Union of India a sum quantified at Rs three lakh within two months of the receipt of a copy of this judgment. A final NOC and discharge certificate shall be issued only after the above amount is deposited and within one month thereafter," it said.

The petitioner was enrolled as an airman in the IAF in January 2004 and his regular engagement was to come to an end in January 2024.

He had applied for the post of general banking officer in a bank in August 2010 and after a written test and an interview, he was declared successful.

In July 2011, he received an order of his appointment from the bank after which he moved the AFT Chandigarh, seeking direction for grant of an NOC and for discharge from the IAF to join a civil post.

The IAF said he had done this without completing the mandatory period of service of seven years and had not even obtained the prior permission of his unit authorities.

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The AFT initially issued an interim direction to the IAF authorities to provisionally issue an NOC and discharge him so as to enable him to take up the new assignment after which he joined the bank in September 2011.

His application seeking NOC and discharge was rejected by the Air Force authorities in March 2012 and later, the provisional NOC issued to him was also cancelled.

Following the decision of the Air Force authorities, the AFT dismissed his plea saying it has become infructuous.

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