In a significant move that will benefit over 64,000 personnel, the Army has said junior commissioned officers (JCOs) are gazetted officers, cancelling its earlier note that described them as "non-gazetted" officers.
The decision by the Army two days back comes amid growing resentment from a large section of its personnel over issues relating to pay-parity and ranking.
In an official note, the Army headquarters has cancelled a communication issued in response to an RTI application in 2011 which had stated that the JCOs are non-gazetted officers, according to documents accessed by PTI.
Highly placed official sources said the Army committed a "major mistake" in 2011 on the status of the JCOs and now the Army headquarters has removed the ambiguity and made it clear that JCOs are gazetted officers.
The clarification will benefit over 64,000 JCOs who are ranked in three categories -- Naib Subedar, Subedar and Subedar Major.
The 2011 note had triggered widespread outrage among the JCOs.
Asked how the Army headquarters made the "mistake" in 2011, classifying the JCOs as non-gazetted officers, a senior Army official said there are separate definitions of officers and the JCOs in the manual of military law and it could have been a case of misinterpretation of the rule book.
The issuance of the letter is also seen as a message by the Army to the government to address grievances of a section of the Army personnel over what they call "disparity" in the current pay band.
The issue of status equivalence between military officers and their civilian counterparts was discussed at the recently concluded Army Commanders' conference.
Asked whether the Army headquarters will send a fresh communication to the RTI applicant who had filed the query about status of the JCOs in 2011, the Army refused to comment.
Defence Ministry sources last week had said that it was seriously examining the long-standing issue relating to status equivalence between military officers and their civilian counterparts.
There has been growing resentment among the military officers who have been insisting that the current status equivalence was flawed and that government must address their concerns.
As per the current pay structure, the subedar majors and subedars are part of the pay band for gazetted officers but there has been discrepancies there as well, said an official.
The Naib subedars whose number of around 55,000 get salary under non-gazetted category, he said.
The matter is among the main issues being examined as part of the pay and allowances anomaly. Last year, then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had set up a high-level committee to look into the issue.