New Delhi: In a controversial and surprising move, the Army Headquarters is said to be in the process of finalising a code of conduct for retired officers, leading to criticism from veterans on social media.
According to the Army HQ’s plan, all serving officers will have to sign an undertaking when they retire, agreeing to adhere to a written code of conduct after their retirement.
It is, however, not yet clear if any violation of the code of conduct would bring in statutory punishment or not.
This is a surprising move because the Army Act covers only serving officers and veterans are outside its purview. While they continue to keep their ranks after retirement, their actions come under the Indian Penal Code.
Sources in the Army HQ said there have been instances when retired officers have behaved irresponsibly, especially on social media, bringing negative publicity for the forces. A code of conduct will ensure such instances do not happen, sources added.
Not final yet
“The Code of Conduct is nowhere final. The issue is still under discussion. The convergence of ideas is being done,” an officer told ThePrint.
Asked whether views of veterans are also being taken into consideration, the officer said, “Right now it is happening at the level of serving officers. Once the process is completed, we will also take the views of the veterans.”
Replying to a query on whether the violation of the code of conduct will invite any punishment, the officer said, “It will or may not invite statutory action. These issues are still under deliberation”.
Former Adjutant General Lt Gen Ashwani Kumar, who retired last week, in an interview to NewsX indicated that violation may bring in statutory action.
Noting that armed forces personnel are allowed to keep their ranks even after retirement, Kumar said it is “anticipated” that they would more or less follow the code of conduct.
“We are in the process, very advanced deliberations are there, where we are trying to work, put some methodology that when people like me retire, they must give some kind of undertaking on code of ethics, which they must abide with,” he said in the interview last week.
Kumar also said it is a tri-service issue and, hence, the recommendations would go through various tri-service committees as well.
He added that whatever existing provisions of laws are required to be amended, the forces will approach the government for the same.
‘Constitution is the Code of Conduct’
The Army veterans are furious over the proposed move with some suggesting it is against democratic principles.
Major (retired) Navdeep Singh, a responsible voice on military matters, tweeted saying he was not angry, but sad after seeing Kumar’s interview.
As stated yesterday, I am not angry on watching the serving General's interview, only saddened. However, I must share here that there have been times when Ministers Late Mr @manoharparrikar, Mr @rajnathsingh & Ms @nsitharaman have done what senior military staff should have done+ pic.twitter.com/6kutzXcHrF
— Navdeep Singh (@SinghNavdeep) November 3, 2019
Major (retired) D.P. Singh, a Kargil veteran and the first blade runner, also tweeted his views on the issue.
How can you expect large heartedness,if a person of that stature is insecure from a100%disabled Major like me&raises doubt on why am I taking so much of interest with no selfish agenda of my own.
I'm equally SAD&pt does come to mind
Are my efforts to tame disabilities wrong? https://t.co/2mSYZCdSPl
— Major D P Singh (@MajDPSingh) November 3, 2019
Major General (retired) S.S. Chohan shared a witty post to express resentment over the move.
"A time has probabely come for veterans to draft a code of conduct for generals in service".
Well said buddy!!🙏
— The Cynic (@Chohan1954) November 3, 2019
He added that the Constitution is the Code of Conduct.
Indian Constitution is our "code of conduct".
And SC is there to protect that.
— The Cynic (@Chohan1954) November 3, 2019
A senior retired officer, who did not wish to be named, called the move “silly”.
An open letter was also doing the rounds of various military WhatsApp groups, stating that the proposed code of conduct just shows how oversensitive the Army HQ is about “justifiable” criticism on social media.