Why army officers are authorized to carry their rank even after retirement?
Article 18 of the Constitution permits Defence Service Officers to hold the rank, even after the retirement. It’s said that “rank never retires, officer does”.
One needs to understand the background and context – as to why makers of our constitution gave this special privilege to officers, which otherwise seems to be much against the very philosophy of equality in a democratic country.
The nature of duties and responsibilities of Defence Service Officers are very different from other jobs – in Govt or in private sector.
Defence Service Officers are commissioned by President of India. This means that a Commissioned Officer holds a position of authority. He/She derives the authority directly from the sovereign power and the rank of an Officer is bestowed upon him/her by the President of India.
Unlike other Govt. Servants, a Commissioned Officer exercises civil and judicial authority and command over his/her soldiers.
This has many implications. Besides the operational tasks, an officer is also responsible for the life of the soldiers that he commands. His responsibility towards his team is like that of a head of the family to the family members, or a better metaphor would be how a patriarch/matriarch is responsible to protect a clan. Interestingly, only a Commissioned Officer can act as Commanding Officer.
It may be noted that on commission, an officer takes oath – which is very different from that of a Civil Servant.
While a Civil Servant takes Oath of Allegiance to the Constitution, a Commissioned Officer takes Oath to serve the country and go anywhere by land, sea or at the peril his/her life.
What are the implications?
Unlike a Civil Servant an officer cannot refuse a transfer. He can’t say that – ‘I’m resigning in protest’ , nor he can take long leave to avoid the transfer.
If he is ordered to serve any part of the world – he has to go – it doesn’t matter whether the location is in India, Africa or Antarctica.
An officer can’t proceed on leave on his own. He can’t avail sick leave, the way it’s done by his civilian counterparts. The military hospital doctors will examine and decide – whether he is required to be hospitalised
It’s not an overstatement, if one says that an Officer’s ‘life’ is the property of the State.
It will be interesting to compare the oaths – oath of Civil Servants v/s oath of Commissioned Officers
Oath of a Civil Servant: “I, …, do swear/solemnly affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to India and to the Constitution of India as by law established, that I will uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India, and that I will carry out the duties of my office loyally, honestly, and with impartiality.”
Oath of a Commissioned Officer: “I (name) hereby solemnly swear that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the of India, as by law established and that I will, as in duty bound honestly and faithfully, serve in the regular Army of the Union of India and go wherever ordered, by land, sea or air, and that I will observe and obey all the commands of the President of the Union of India and the commands of any officer set above me, even to the peril of my life.”
In other words when an Officer gets Commissioned he writes a blank cheque of his life and hand over to the Govt and the Govt can encash/redeem, at its will.
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