New Delhi: For the first time ever, a special human rights cell will be set up at the Army Headquarters, which will be the nodal body to look into any rights violations.
While the human rights section will be headed by a major general rank officer who will report to the vice chief, it will also have an IPS officer on deputation, as was reported by ThePrint in March.
Besides this, a special vigilance cell under the Army chief will be set up and it will have representatives from the Navy and the Air Force as well. These are some of the major reforms approved by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh as part of the re-organisation of Army Headquarters Wednesday.
In another significant change, Singh approved a proposal to make 206 officers, posted at the headquarters, available additionally to formations and units in the field. These include 186 officers of lieutenant colonel rank.
Under the reorganisation plan, the Army had proposed reducing around 20 per cent of the officer posts at the headquarters, the merger of two weapons and systems procurement agencies and the creation of a new deputy chief post for co-ordination between the military intelligence, operations and logistics wings.
The move is part of an overall process to make the 1.3 million-strong Indian Army leaner and fitter for 21st-century contingencies.
The Army had earlier commissioned four major in-house studies for greater integration; this restructuring is a result of one of the four studies.
The human rights cell
The new cell will ensure the Army’s compliance with human rights conventions and values, a statement by the Ministry of Defence said. It will be the nodal point to examine any HR violation reports.
“To enhance transparency and ensure the best of investigative expertise is available to the section, a police officer of SSP/SP rank will be taken on deputation,” it said.
Defence sources said the IPS officer will facilitate necessary coordination with other organisations and the home ministry on the human rights issues at hand.
The Indian Army often faces allegations of human rights violations, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast where it operates under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). Army sources, however, say most of the allegations have been found to be untrue following probes by the force.
The move to hire an IPS officer comes as the Army looks for a new structure for better coordination, said the sources.
Some Army officials, however, see the move as ceding of space to the IPS lobby. The Services and the IPS lobby have often been at loggerheads over various issues, including pay parity and operational experience.
A separate vigilance cell
At present, the vigilance function for the Army chief is through multiple agencies and there is no single point interface.
The defence minister has now approved an independent vigilance cell that will be made functional under COAS (Chief of Army Staff). Accordingly, ADG (vigilance) will be placed directly under the COAS for this purpose.
The vigilance cell will have three colonel-level officers — one each from the Army, the Indian Air Force and the Navy.
This will be done within the existing posts at the Army headquarters. The set up is unique as the Army chief will now look into matters concerning the other services as well.