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Military doctors move Supreme Court as Defence Ministry drags feet over pay hike

Military doctors move Supreme Court as Defence Ministry drags feet over pay hike

Economic Times: NEW DELHI: Close on the heels of a recent promotion disparity between combat and non-combat officers, the armed forces are witnessing another rift between cadres: uniformed doctors and dentists have moved the Supreme Court against the defence ministry.
Members of the Army Medical Corps (AMC) have complained before the top court that the ministry has held their due incentives at ransom for the past seven years, citing difficulties of command and control in case doctors are granted higher grade pay. The petitioners, who include several retired doctors, are also using the social media to gather funds to meet the cost of litigation.

In 2008, the government had extended ‘dynamic assured career progression’ to all medical and dental doctors in the central government including the armed forces. The scheme enables one to reach a designated grade pay on a time-bound basis. But the scheme was not implemented by the defence services, and medical officers moved the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), which ruled in their favour. The armed forces challenged the order in the Supreme Court, but the top court dismissed its appeal in September 2013.
However, the defence ministry refused to implement the scheme at the behest of the chiefs of staff committee, which stated that the additional benefits and increase in grade pay would lead to command and control issues in the armed forces hierarchy. It stated that similar benefits should be extended to all defence officers so as not to disturb seniority.
A group of Army Medical Corps (AMC) doctors moved the Supreme Court last year. “This is a completely unfair step as the armed forces doctors are also doing the same work as other government medical officers. Why this discrimination?” said retired Wing Commander Dr A K Handa, who filed the writ petition in the Supreme Court.
He also claimed that there would be no command and control issues as a medical officer even today is drawing special allowances higher than a non-medical officer and doctors do not hold senior command positions. The military, however, is wary. According to Note 2, Resolution no 1/1/2008-IC of the Gazette of India (Extraordinary), Part 1, Section 1, dated August 29, 2008, “Grade Pay will determine seniority of posts only within a cadre’s hierarchy….”
This particular clause has created tension in services like Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and Military Engineer Services (MES) where grant of a higher grade pay to civilian officers has disturbed the existing command structure.
“This is one of the reasons why the ministry of defence is considering restructuring the BRO into separate military and civil wings,” a senior military officer said.
Some officials in the ministry, meanwhile, said implementation of the DACP scheme would help attract more talent to the AMC, which is struggling to compete with other government departments that have already implemented the scheme for doctors. The next hearing for the case is scheduled in September. 

Read at Economic Times

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