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Sunday, July 27, 2014

NDTV’s “The Buck Stops Here” from Kargil: How our soldiers are treated by the system!

You may want to squeeze out some time to watch this important panel discussion on NDTV's “The Buck Stops Here” with Barkha Dutt, live from Kargil.

The Central theme of the discussion was the treatment meted out by the system to our military veterans, especially our disabled and war disabled soldiers.

The panelists were Former Vice Chief Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi, Former Defence Secretary Mr Ajay Prasad, NDTV’s Senior Editor (Defence) Mr Nitin Gokhale, Member of Parliament Mr Rajeev Chandrasekhar and Maj Navdeep Singh, Advocate Punjab & Haryana High Court.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Rank Pay: Positive development, new letter and fresh monetary benefits

As was discussed on this blog on 16 September 2013 with reference to the rank pay controversy (See this and this), the Attorney General had supported some of the issues raised by the Defence Services on which there was a difference of opinion with the Ministry of Defence on interpretation of the decision of the Supreme Court. 

Taking into account the legal advice tendered by the then Attorney General, the Ministry has today issued a fresh letter on the rank pay issue which is to be read in conjunction with the earlier letter.

The Ministry has also agreed that the reduction/deduction of rank pay from the fixation during 5th Central Pay Commission was also incorrect and that the fixation would be rectified for the period of 01st January 1996 and beyond too.

The letter can be downloaded by clicking here. 

Thanks to the ones who relentlessly fought the battle, including RDOA and the Pay Commission Cells of the three services.

Lots more to do....

Saturday, July 19, 2014

New letter on ex-servicemen status for boarded out recruits

This is in relation to this earlier post of 23 March 2013 on the subject of grant of ex-serviceman status to boarded-out recruits in receipt of disability pension.

The Government, by way of a clarification had only granted the said status to recruits boarded out after 01 Feb 2006, which in my opinion was incongruous and to which my objection was recorded in the following terms in the earlier post:

“...Though the subject has been clarified in the above terms, in my opinion, boarded out recruits in receipt of disability pension would ipso facto be included in the pre-existing definitions in force prior to 01 Feb 2006 too since unlike officer trainees, recruits are entitled to pay and disability pensionary benefits as applicable to regular Sepoys and are also under the purview of the Army Act and hence cannot treated differently than others. Even otherwise, the MoD clarification issued on 01 Feb 2006 did not contain any cut-off date for the applicability of the clarification which has now been superimposed through back-door...”

Thankfully, the Ministry of Defence has now issued a clarification in consistent with the view as above that boarded-out recruits in receipt of disability pension shall be treated as ex-servicemen irrespective of the date of discharge.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Bringing to the knowledge of the top what is happening at the bottom

The Prime Minister, on occasions more than one, has made his pain felt at the litigation initiated by the Ministry of Defence against disabled soldiers in the Supreme Court. The issue also forms a part of the manifesto of the ruling party.

The ruthlessness of the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare (DESW) of the Ministry of Defence is bewildering, and it is also a cause of concern that the Three Services Headquarters have not protested this sadism strongly enough in the recent past.

It is thus very clear that the Prime Minister, and also the current Defence Minister, who in all probability are very busy in the upcoming budget, are unaware that it is business as usual for junior functionaries of the DESW and that the said department and Govt lawyers in the Supreme Court are continuing with their tirade against disabled soldiers and other pensioners.

It is however heartening to note that people have taken a lead in informing the political executive of this malaise and one such letter written to the Prime Minister can be accessed by clicking here.

It is the duty of all of us to ensure that the sentiments of old and infirm pensioners, both civilian as well as military, and of disabled soldiers and military widows, are brought to the knowledge of the Prime Minister and the concerned Ministers, so that the dubious intentions of junior functionaries of the Govt are not allowed to override law, equity and justice or even to contravene the opinion expressed by the Prime Minister.

The issue has been covered in the press too:

The Hindu

The Tribune

The Hindustan Times

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Cheated, eh?

It is indeed ironic.

The pension wing of the Ministry of Defence, now under the so called Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare (DESW) has cheated military veterans and their families since long. It is however sad that these downright deceitful actions did not elicit any protest from the Services HQ, who, especially during times of yore, either did not have the capability of keeping a sharp eye on issues concerning defence veterans, or were not clued up or were simply too timid to react.

Whatever be the reason, I am pointing out four out of many such instances of how Cabinet decisions have been openly given the kick by a few junior level functionaries of the Ministry of Defence leading to denial of crores of rupees to poor unsuspecting veterans and their families:

1. Pensioners other than commissioned officers who retired prior to 10-10-1997 : When the 5th CPC was implemented with effect from 01-01-1996, a gazette notification was duly issued which stated that though the scales were being mentioned for ranks other than officers, the Ministry was carrying out trade rationalisation and removing anomalies from the said scales and the scales would finally be implemented once the said rationalisation was complete and that the said anomaly-free scales would replace the anomalous scales with effect from 01-01-1996. However, when the anomalies were removed and the new scales were finally implemented, these were implemented w.e.f 10-10-1997 through Special Army Instruction (SAI) 2/S/98 and were not implemented w.e.f 01-01-1996 as already approved by the Cabinet. The retrospective implementation w.e.f 01-01-1996 notified vide a Gazette notification was conveniently forgotten. Later when pensions were improved from time to time, the said improvement was based on the anomalous scales of 1996 rather than the anomaly-free rationalised scales introduced in 1997 which were in fact to take effect from 1996 thereby replacing the old anomalous scales. Many decisions in favour of pensioners were rendered by High Courts on the said issue and affirmed by the Supreme Court but still the Ministry did not take any action on the subject. The situation was finally rectified by the Defence Ministry w.e.f 01-07-2009 thereby denying our pensioners the correct pension from 01-01-1996 till 30-06-2009. The Ministry not only managed to flout and contravene a gazette notification issued after approval of the Cabinet, but also managed to disregard directions of our Constitutional Courts.

2.  Removal of requirement of 10 months’ service in a particular rank to earn the pension of that rank: The 6th CPC abrogated the requirement of the 10 months’ formula and provided that pension shall be calculated on the basis of 50% of the emoluments last drawn unlike the position earlier where service of 10 months in a particular rank was required to earn the pension of that rank. The same was made applicable to both pre and post-2006 retirees by the Government. Prior to the 6th CPC, the pensions of Personnel Below Officer Rank (PBOR) were calculated on the basis of the maximum of the pay-scales which was different than the system followed for all civilian employees and commissioned officers of the defence services for whom the pension was calculated on the basis of the minimum of pay scale. Accordingly, again to provide an edge to PBOR as was the case till 6th CPC, the Government constituted a committee under the Cabinet Secretary who opined that the pension of pre-2006 retirees should be calculated based on the notional maximum within the new 6th CPC scales corresponding to the maximum of pre-6th CPC (5th CPC) scales as per the 6th CPC switch-over fitment tables thereby extending the edge granted to PBOR which was applicable to them earlier. This new stipulation was made applicable with financial effect from 01-07-2009. The said report was accepted by the Cabinet. However, when the DESW of the Ministry of Defence issued the implementation letter, they on their own again added a line re-introducing the 10 months stipulation back into the pensionary provisions for pre-2006 retirees which in reality now stood abrogated for pre-2006 as well as post-2006 retirees after the 6th CPC. Meaning thereby, that if a Naib Subedar had served only for 6 months in that rank prior to retirement, he would be granted the pension of a Havildar, and not a Naib Subedar. The interesting part however remains that even the notings sent to the Cabinet for approval of the Committee’s recommendations contained no such stipulation and the same was mischievously added by lower and mid-level officials of the Ministry of Defence without any reference to the Committee of Secretaries or to the Cabinet, which itself is a serious mischief in an elected democracy.

3. Grant of pension limited to maximum terms of engagement rather than 33 years as applicable to all government pensioners : It is commonly known that earlier, pensionary tables for defence personnel used to be prepared only till the maximum possible service in each rank since individuals were compulsorily retired on attaining the maximum terms of engagement. However, the 4th Central Pay Commission recommended that full pension should be fixed on the basis of 33 years of service including weightage and proportionately reduced for lesser length of service. The system of 33 years is followed as on date for all pre-2006 pensioners. However still, the Defence Accounts Department continued paying pension in accordance with the maximum terms of engagement for each rank and not based on 33 years of service as applicable after the 4th CPC. For example, if a Naik had served for 28 years, or if a DSC Naik had say 30 years of combined service of two spells, they were only being paid a pension for 22 years of service on the specious pretext that the maximum terms of engagement possible for a Naik were 22 years. This was later questioned and quashed by Courts being against the notifications issued after various CPCs which contained no such prohibition. Now last year, the cabinet improved the pensionary benefits of Sepoys, Naiks and Havildars by increasing their weightages. The Govt was then asked to issue a letter. The letter was issued, but again mischievously, in Para 8 of the Letter dated 17 Jan 2013, a line was added by the DESW that the pension shall be revised subject to the maximum terms of engagement for each rank. Giving a benefit to some by one hand and taking it away with the other. This prohibition was never a part of the Union Cabinet’s decision or the recommendations of the Committee of Secretaries on the basis of which this Govt of India letter had been issued but was made a part of the draft letter prepared by the Defence Accounts Department. From where did this line creep in mysteriously and illegally? As on date, all govt employees are being paid pensions in accordance with the length of service rendered by them, however Other Ranks of the defence services are being paid only in accordance with the terms of engagement applicable to their ranks from time to time rather than their actual service. This is not only unfair, but also patently illegal.

4.  Enhancement and fresh Categories of Casualty Pensionary Awards including Disability, War Injury and Liberalized Pensionary Awards, introduced after the 5th CPC : The 5th CPC had introduced certain new categories and enhanced the existing casualty pensionary awards w.e.f 01-01-1996. These were extended only to post-96 retirees vide a Govt of India letter for civil pensioners issued on 03-02-2000. The same stipulations were later extended to post-96 defence pensioners by the MoD vide a letter dated 31-01-2001. Later, the benefits were extended by the Govt of India to pre-96 pensioners vide another letter issued on 11-09-2001 and a copy of that letter was sent to MoD for implementation. The MoD however sat on the letter and never issued similar instructions for defence pensioners. Till date, w.e.f 01-01-1996, pre-1996 retiree defence pensioners have been denied the benefits of the Govt of India letter dated 11-09-2001 despite the fact that the Department of Pension and Pensioners’ Welfare (DoPPW) has reminded the MoD time and again to do the needful. One stipulation of the letter of broad-banding of disability percentages was implemented by the MoD for pre-1996 retirees but only with effect from 01-07-2009 thereby denying such disabled personnel the arrears from 01-01-1996 till 30-06-2009, which of course had been released and paid to similarly placed civilians.

Yes, all of you were cheated. And the most striking feature of this sadism is that the particular officer in DESW who was responsible for many of the above actions and is also a signatory of a majority of these letters, is now dealing with the process of implementation of One Rank One Pension (OROP). He is still functioning in the DESW on re-employment, after retiring from regular service.

Unless veterans are on the same page and cease and desist from their internal battles, and the Services HQ acquire expertise and knowledge, overcome timidity and involve stake-holders, no progress can be expected.

The state seems much better in the Pay Commission Cells of the Defence Services at this point, but only time would tell if the hammering can be reversed or if further hammering can be arrested.

Best of luck!

Saturday, June 14, 2014



Lt Gen S Pattabhiraman (Retd)

A recent news item appearing in a national daily referring to the Principal Secretary to the new Prime Minister expressing concern of the new government at the military-bureaucratic disconnect in the Ministry of Defence and calling for measures to streamline decision making at the MOD is indeed a wake-up call for the latter and the nation expectantly looks forward to the new PM to revamp the MOD within the ‘100 days agenda’.

India’s armed forces are universally acknowledged as a highly reliable professional military force. However they suffer from being unable to fully optimise this very professionalism towards contributing to a more robust and efficient system of higher defence management due to the de facto translation of constitutionally mandated rules of democratic governance which restrict uniformed services from holding Secretary level posts or other appointments under the Central Staffing Scheme or otherwise being representatives of the government of India.

Periodic attempts at revamping the Higher Defence Organization, notably the Kargil review committee and one of its derivatives designated as task force on defence management led by Shri Arun Singh and the Shri Naresh Chandra led committee (whose recommendations are not yet in public domain), have not addressed the fundamental dichotomy that exists between the de facto responsibility that the  three Chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force have in ensuring the territorial integrity of the country and the de jure placement of  Secretary Defence as the single authority responsible to the Defence Minister with regard to the department of defence, that is, all matters dealing with the Army, Navy and Air Force.

Government of India’s Allocation of Business Rules, 1961, derived from Article 77(3) of the constitution stipulate that only Secretaries to the government as designated by the Minister concerned are responsible to carry out the duties entrusted to the departments placed under the Secretary so specified. In this case the territorial defence of any part of India, is the responsibility of Secretary Defence as the head of Department of Defence. The other Secretaries in the Ministry of Defence entrusted with their respective charters are Secretary Defence Production, Secretary Defence Research and Development and lastly Secretary Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare(DESW).

The reforms in Higher Defence Management, so far implemented since independence, relating to creation of the Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) under a Secretary level three star ranked officer designated as Chief of Integrated Staff to Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (CISC) and raising of C-in-C (Commander-in-Chief) A&N Command and C-in-C Strategic Forces Command (SFC) have created more joint organizations of the Services but have not made any difference to garnering the professionalism of the uniformed mind in decision making. Suggested reforms on meaningful integration of the Services Headquarters with the MOD have also fallen by the wayside because of  lack of clarity in bridging the gap between how the Government of India has chosen to manage the departments under the Ministry of Defence and how best can the nation’s interests be served in making full use of the vast pool of experienced senior defence officers.

The Armed forces have, kept the nation’s trust admirably, so far. However growing asymmetry with China on account of as yet inadequate border infrastructure, persistent hollowness in warlike inventory of the armed forces, niggardly modernization and continuing dissatisfaction of retired personnel on personnel and pension matters (leading to needlessly and forcibly imposed litigation and loss of faith in the system), should all be a serious cause for concern. The resignation of Admiral DK Joshi cannot but highlight more this frustration on the part of the knowledgeable and nationalistic strategic community of senior officers past and present at this paralysis of inaction. It is time we carry out a reappraisal of the Rules of Business so as to optimise the output of the Secretaries to the Government of India given the non-utilisation of professional competence and vast experience of a plethora of  senior Secretary level  officers  in the three services.

The first and inarguably the most important of the Secretaries in MOD is the Defence Secretary who has direct responsibility over the three Services. The three Service Chiefs and the likely fourth Joint Chief of Staff (reportedly as per the recommendation of Naresh Chandra committee) outrank the Defence Secretary and have direct access to the Raksha Mantri but are not responsible per se for defence. Logically the three Vice Chiefs should then be included as Secretaries responsible for departments of the Army, Navy and Air Force. This would require due amendment to the Rules of Business. In addition it is also time for a single file system to be adopted in the MOD with service officers of the three star rank and holding Director General’s post and above to be included in the Rules of Business.

The second of the departments under the Ministry of Defence is the Defence Production. Repeated failures and under-performance of this department having all the Defence PSUs under the Secretary Defence Production calls for drastic changes towards active involvement of, and accountability to the three services. The charge- sheeting and incarceration of a former Chairman of the Ordnance Factories Board should have been a wake-up call. It is time the Secretary Defence Production is chosen from a panel of approved Lieutenant Generals/equivalents and given a minimum tenure of two years as Secretary Defence Production.

The third Secretary level Departmental head is the Secretary Defence Research and Development, who is also the Scientific Advisor to the Raksha Mantri. It is time that while as SA the DRDO Chief can carry on unfettered in purely design and development of original systems, the decisions affecting the services in the realm of applied technology  are taken by a specially constituted Board with the three Vice Chiefs and CISC as its members as also the Secretary (Finance) in MOD.

Coming to the last of the four departments under the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare, it is worth recalling the accepted maxim that ex-servicemen’s interests are best looked after by the serving military. If it is so, then why shouldn't the Secretary DESW not be a serving uniformed officer specially selected from a suitable panel and given minimum two year tenure or a recently retired officer selected by the government. In most democracies, affairs of the veterans are looked after by officers with armed forces background.

Changes recommended in the foregoing for making out a case for injecting greater professionalism in the functioning of the Defence Ministry would only require a few amendments to the rules of business of the Government. At a time when Indian defence establishment is faced with a growing militarist China and there are fresh fears over increased instability on our western borders, we would be well served to  carry out these amendments in order to optimise the available specialist professional expertise of senior service officers in the MOD, by re-allocating two of the departments, that is, the Departments of Defence Production and Ex-Servicemen Welfare to selected serving military officers as Secretaries. Further,the potential of the department of Defence under Secretary Defence be optimised by involving the principal stake-holders, again the military, by including service officers of Director General’s posts in the government’s Rules of Business and adopting a single file system of files movement in the MOD as is being done in other sensitive Ministries/Departments of the government. Finally, with regard to the fourth department ie, the Defence Research and Development Organisation, its decisions  be ratified by  constituting  a Defence Technology Board akin to the Railway Board with the Vice Chiefs of the Services being members of the Board alongwith the Secretary Defence Research and Development and Secretary Defence (Finance).

The author is a former Vice Chief of the Army and has also been a founder member of the Armed Forces Tribunal 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Some developments related to the Armed Forces Tribunal

As many would know, we had taken up the cause of non-implementation of orders rendered by the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) by way of a Public Interest Litigation.

There have been some positive developments in the matter and readers may be interested to read the news-reports on the subject, linked below:

Friday, May 16, 2014

My Opinion/Oped on tumultuous existence of disabled soldiers in India : From StratPost

The following oped was published by StratPost yesterday and can be directly accessed by clicking here.

I would request readers to squeeze out time to read it.

StratPost is a unique South Asian defence domain which gets syndicated to Dow Jones Factiva and its content is also available on The Wall Street Journal (Professional Edition) and Lexis Nexis.

Opinion : No Country for Old Soldiers

Navdeep Singh

Hurtful is the cold reality that while the society at large renders lip service aplenty for our soldiers, the practical ground reality is somewhat removed from this theoretical compliment.

The rights and benefits of our men and women in uniform, especially disabled soldiers, are under siege, and if there is any institution to be thanked for protecting them, it is our Constitutional Courts, more particularly the Delhi and the Punjab & Haryana High Courts, which have time and again raised a protective shield for military personnel, veterans and their families from terror unleashed by that very officialdom which was designed to care for them.

Take for example Naik Suraj Bhan of the Punjab Regiment who suffered psychiatric scars after extensively serving in counter-insurgency and then suffering a fall while on duty. He was medically boarded out without any pension with the system branding his disability “neither attributable to, nor aggravated by military service” thereby denying him disability benefits. After running from pillar to post, he finally got relief from the Punjab & Haryana High Court but the Army appealed to a Division Bench of the High Court and then to the Supreme Court. Thankfully the appeal was thrown out by the Supreme Court, but how many of these poor infirm and disabled soldiers afford assistance in Courts?

Suraj Bhan is today a non-entity, in a dreadful shape, walks around naked, sometimes chained to his bed by insensitive villagers, but who cares? The Government can afford to run riot with an army of lawyers let loose on our disabled soldiers till the Supreme Court, but at what cost? While the political executive opts to look the other way, there are thousands of other disabled soldiers who are receiving notices from the Supreme Court on multiple appeals filed by the Ministry of Defence against disability pension granted to them by our High Courts and Benches of Armed Forces Tribunal. Lower level bureaucrats in the Ministry of Defence and also the Army HQ are deriving sadistic pleasure out of this game with nobody from the upper echelons really ready to tame them. In any case, the top brass is prone to be misled by devious and disingenuous noting sheets initiated from below on which no application of mind is put into motion by the seniors.

The system is inherently unfair to our disabled soldiers. The rules are outdated, the procedure of adjudging disabilities as “attributable to, or aggravated by military service” by medical boards, which is the declaration required for grant of disability benefits, is primitive and medieval and reflects a mathematical and not a medical approach. Illegal instructions are issued by officers sitting in Delhi to medical boards which are in contravention of rules.

For instance, the rules provide that service in peace or field areas shall have no bearing on ‘attributability’ of disabilities, but locally issued letters to medical boards direct them that attributability (and thereby disability pension) should not be granted if diseases are incurred in ‘peace’ areas. So, if a soldier in a particular high-pressure stressful appointment in Delhi who may be on call 24 hours a day, suffers a heart ailment due to stress and strain of service, he shall not be entitled to disability benefits, but another soldier who may be performing simple laid back clerical duties for a few hours a day in an Air Conditioned Office in Jammu would be entitled to the said benefits for the same disability because Jammu is ‘field’ while Delhi is ‘peace’.

Primitive practices are still followed, such as forming opinion on heart problems on the basis of a ‘14 days charter of duties’. The service-connection of complicated heart problems in the Indian military is determined by activities a person had indulged in the last 14 days prior to the onset of the disease. It is common knowledge that heart diseases manifest over a long period of time, isn’t it time to shun these outdated practices and deal with such situations with a more scientific temperament? Hence rather than looking into disabilities on a case to case basis, broad mathematical rules are applied which challenge the very basis of medical science, logic and even common sense.

Rules promulgated by the Government state that if the cause of the disability cannot be identified, then disability pension is to be granted to the individual by taking the disability as attributable to service, but in practice, in such cases disability pension admissibility is rejected by stating that pension cannot be awarded since the ‘cause is unknown’ or that the disease is a ‘constitutional disease’. Psychiatric disabilities, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and even worrying trends of suicides and fratricide are being ignored and mostly being wrongly linked to ‘domestic reasons’ thereby obliterating a connection with military service so as to keep negative propaganda at bay, rather than looking within. But this approach is not only a disservice to our soldiers but also cowardly whereby eyes are closed to an issue which should engage us and which has a direct link with military life.

A soldier spends most of his service life in his unit and away from his family, blaming such occurrences on ‘domestic reasons’ may be the easy way out to escape responsibility but hardly moral, ethical or legal. And then there are certain provisions that our commanders, doctors and even those deciding entitlements sitting in tall towers in Delhi are unaware of. A succinct example would be, that as per rules, even suicides are to be declared as ‘attributable to military service’ if the occurrence is in a high altitude or isolated area, and this has been the rule position since 1937 when the British codified this aspect. But why would anybody want to go deep and study such issues, scratching the surface is much easier, even if it leads to deleterious consequences to the entitlements of our soldiers and their widows.

To deny benefits, at times it is remarked that such disabilities may also have arisen had the particular person not been in the Army. Very well. Here is a person who is 24 hours and 365 days on call under a stern disciplinary code, mostly away from family, in a strictly regimented routine, retires in his 30s, and can he be simplistically compared with say a civilian employee who goes to office at 9 in the morning to return at 5, five days a week, lives with his family in his hometown, enjoys holidays, retires at 60?. It shouldn’t take an expert to reply in the negative.

While a solider is away on military duty, wouldn’t common ailments such as hypertension or heart diseases or seizures or psychiatric disabilities or psychosomatic disorders get aggravated by even seemingly insignificant incidents at the home-front like admissions or non-performance of children in educational institutions, minor property disputes, lack of care of aged parents and family back home, insensitivity of civil administration and the like?

While the public at large feels that military personnel, due to a seemingly ‘stress-free’ life and the emphasis on physical exercise, enjoy a better health profile than civilians, this actually is merely an urban legend. Studies during the 5th Central Pay Commission came to a conclusion that while the average life expectancy of civilian employees was 77.5 years, it was shockingly only 60-64 years for our jawans. Of course no official attempt was made to go deeper into the statistics. To call such a life ‘stress-free’ where in daily routine permission is meant to be sought even to go to the toilet or visit a marketplace- innocuous things which other citizens take as granted, would be faulty to say the least.

The icing on this ruinous cake is that the provisions of Section 47 of ‘Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995’ are not applicable to the armed forces– meaning that if a civilian employee gets disabled whether on duty or off duty, whether due to service or otherwise, whether due to own negligence or not, in whichever circumstance, his or her service is protected under the ibid Act and if the said employee is not able to work, still he or she is to be paid all pay and allowances till the age of 60 and full pension thereafter. While on the other hand, if similarly placed service-members get disabled, then what to talk of full pay and allowances or even pension, they can be discharged even without a disability pension.

Surprising it is not that most democracies, irrespective of the kind of disability, offer some pension or monthly assistance to disabled soldiers. The United States treats all disabilities sustained on duty or on authorised leave as having incurred in the ‘line of duty’ as per Section 105 of United States Code 38. Even Bhutan, under its Armed Forces Pension & Provident Fund Scheme, 2002, caters for monthly payment to such disabled soldiers, even if the disability has no link with the course of employment, till the age of superannuation and then proper pension thereafter. India stands out like a sole sore thumb.

Just proper adherence and broad interpretation of rules would bring succour to disabled soldiers, but that is not how it is. Rules are interpreted literally through a tint and not liberally as they are meant to be. When the judiciary comes to their rescue, multiple layers of appeals ensue, with the Ministry of Defence blaming the Army HQ and the Army HQ blaming the Ministry, while the disabled bear the brunt of this ridiculous insensitivity. The majority of petitions and appeals filed by the Ministry of Defence and pending in the Supreme Court are appeals against our own disabled soldiers.

It is not that the issue has not been raised at the highest level. In August, 2013, MPs cutting across party lines, led by Ms Smriti Irani, had brought this morbidity to light in the Parliament wherein she came down heavily upon the tendency of the Government to deal with and interpret entitlements of disabled personnel restrictively and hyper-technically rather than liberally as provided by rules, she also decried the Government’s tendency of filing appeals till the Supreme Court against disabled soldiers forcing them to litigate till they were either dead or broke. But of course, as expected, not a tear was shed by the Ministry of Defence.

The Supreme Court in 2010 remarked that the Government was treating disabled soldiers like beggars. On the persistent requests of a battery of lawyers, the remarks were toned down and it was observed that the Government was treating soldiers in a ‘shabby manner’ which was ‘extremely unfortunate’. The High Courts have recorded many such remarks with the Delhi High Court stating that the circumstances under which our soldiers operate are ‘unimaginable to those not acquainted with such situations’, even reminding the world at large of the adage “When you go home Tell them, for their Today, we gave our Tomorrow”. These are words which should have resonated within the precincts of the officialdom, but these did not, and even after much hammering, no change is seen on the horizon. They say change comes from within, but from a hollow national core, what can be expected? Zilch?

Which brings us back to where I started. There is much more to patriotism than chest-thumping or war-mongering. The inner demons, these insidious issues need to be addressed first. These may not be glamorous enough but are much more vital than the pomp and show of the parades that you see on TV, clapping your hands, swelling your chest. Such pride is worthless when the nation does not stand steadfastly behind the rights of the men and women in uniform who give the prime of their youth for all of us, for you, for me, for an ungrateful officialdom, for an ungrateful nation.

Major Navdeep Singh is a practicing Advocate in the Punjab & Haryana High Court and the Armed Forces Tribunal. He was also the founding President of the Armed Forces Tribunal Bar Association. He is a Member of the International Society for Military Law and the Law of War at Brussels. He writes extensively at www.IndianMilitary.info and tweets under the handle @SinghNavdeep.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Govt issues orders related to grant of 100% Composite Transfer Grant to personnel of the Armed Forces

The Ministry of Defence has issued orders related to release of 100% Composite Transfer Grant to personnel of the defence services as far as it relates to Paragraphs 67 (c) (i) and 70 (d) (ii) of the Travel Regulations.

Composite Transfer Grant (CTG) related to the above paragraphs shall now be “one month’s pay” and the revised rates are effective with effect from 01 September 2008, that is, the day the Sixth Central Pay Commission recommendations were accepted.

Officers affected by connected movement on or after 01 September 2008, including those who may have retired in the interregnum, may float/re-float claims to the effect.  

Clarifications, if any, may be sought from the Army HQ (Mov C) or may be placed in the comments section of this post. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Curative Petition filed by the Central Government against its pensioners DISMISSED by the Supreme Court, now is this closure to their agony?

As explained in detail in this post published on this blog on 22 April 2014, the Curative Petition filed by the Great Union of India against its own pensioners came up for hearing before a 5 Judge Bench of the Hon’ble Supreme which was pleased to dismiss the same.

This was the 5th Round of litigation for pensioners starting from the CAT ending with this Curative Petition. But would this be closure to their agony?