Then Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha reviews a parade at Air Force Academy, Hyderabad. Source: Wikimedia/Indian Air Force

A corporal-airman, an Air Force jawan, has been denied study leave because he is not qualified to do so. Qualified over here means he is not an officer. These rules are a throwback to the British raj over India. There were clear demarcations between commissioned officers (who were often white) and the rest of the army who were made up of Indians.

Corporal B.K. Verma wants to pursue his M.Tech from IIT Dhanbad and had topped the entrance exams. His leave request was denied by the IAF because he is not an officer. The Delhi High Court has criticized this decision harshly and the Bench headed by Justice Indira Bannerjee said, “Don’t deny them equality by refusing them leave to pursue higher studies only on the grounds of rank and status.”

The IAF rejected his leave application because there is no provision to send jawans on study leave. Only officers can avail of this. Verma’s rejection is difficult to understand as several officers in the IAF recommended that he be given leave.

Bayside View: This is an outdated law and deserves to trashed. Verma completed his B.Tech while he was a jawan with the IAF. He is studious and believes that education is the way to a better life. The IAF should be giving him special concessions and making it easy for him to get educated.

The Delhi HC shares our opinion. They noted, “It is, in our view, preposterous to assume that only officers would have aspirations of improving their knowledge and educational qualifications, and not the airmen,” The discrimination is “totally discriminatory and violation of the article 14 of the Indian Constitution”.

We hope that this decision by the IAF is reversed as soon as possible and airman Verma can get his M.Tech from IIT Dhanbad.