Feel free to contribute on burning issues concerning the armed forces. Contributions would be acknowledged - Use the 'Comments' tab or email navdeepsingh.india[at]gmail.com. No operational/business/commercial matters to be discussed please. Legal advice/litigation related issues would strictly NOT be published or discussed or entertained. Information on this blog is opinion based and is neither official nor in the form of an advice. This is a pro bono online journal in public service related to issues, policies and benefits, and the idea behind it is to educate and not to create controversy or to incite. Be soft in your language, respect Copyrights.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tidbits....

(A). Suffixing “(TS)” for Time Scale Ranks: A really strange practice of suffixing “(TS)” with Time Scale Ranks had been prevalent for quite some time. For example, one could see the proliferation of terms such as “Colonel (TS)” even in official correspondence. Of course this was totally incorrect since there is only one rank of “Colonel” that exists officially and legally, and there is nothing called “Colonel (TS)” in the universally and internationally accepted system of military ranks. Such distinction had only been introduced for auditing purposes for practical reasons and not for day to day usage. To elaborate, officers promoted to the rank of Lt Col by Time Scale used to be placed in the pay scale of a Lt Col but with the rank pay of Major, and hence, for the purposes of audit, pay and pension, it was practically required to clarify the same in order to release the correct entitlements. Now, commendably, the Army HQ has clarified it to all concerned that “(TS)” would not be used in any communication for officers promoted by Time Scale. A welcome step indeed!

(B). Defence Travel System: In the railway budget announced today, it has been stated that paper warrants shall be eliminated and a new ‘Defence Travel System’ would be introduced. Again a welcome step.

(C). SC again clarifies law on disability benefits: The apex Court has yet again dismissed an appeal filed by the Ministry of Defence and the Air HQ against a disabled Air Warrior. The SC has ruled by way of a detailed decision that disability pension has to flow in terms of the rules which are to be liberally interpreted and not as per the whims of the medical board. A report on the same can be accessed by clicking here.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Inclusion of Non-Practicing Allowance in the pension of Doctors- after duly issuing instructions w.e.f 1996, Govt grants benefits w.e.f 2006 also, in compliance of the SC decision (while Military Doctors await parallel orders)

A detailed post was placed on this blog on 30 Nov 2013 explaining the dubious stand of the officialdom in the case involving counting of the element of Non-Practicing Allowance (NPA) in the pension of Central Govt Doctors, factum of which became clear on perusing the decision of the Supreme Court in KC Bajaj’s case.

After the decision in the above case, the Department of Pension & Pensioners’ Welfare (DoPPW) duly complied with the decision and issued instructions with regards to inclusion of NPA in the pension of Doctors with effect from 01 Jan 1996 (5th Central Pay Commission) which was a subject matter of the said litigation. When informed that the same logic also applied to fixation of pension after the 6th Central Pay Commission, the DoPPW, upholding its image of a progressive department, rose to the occasion and has now resolved the anomaly in toto by extending the benefit to pension fixed with effect from 01 Jan 2006.


Of course, similar orders for 5th CPC as well as the 6th CPC have not been issued till date for Military Doctors.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

"One Rank One Pension" and other military veteran issues: Myth Buster

"ONE RANK ONE PENSION" AND OTHER MILITARY VETERAN ISSUES: MYTH BUSTER 


Navdeep Singh

The very recent assurance on “One Rank One Pension”, or OROP as it is colloquially known, by the Defence Minister of the country should calm some nerves. The Minister, by now known for his sensitive and humane approach, reassured military veterans that he staunchly stood behind the promise made by the Government on the subject time and again, including by the Prime Minister. A case is hence definitely made out not to read too much into the negativity floating around in the environment on the subject.

Why OROP for soldiers some may ask! Common sense is all that is required to fathom that the current cost of living equally applies to a military veteran who retired say fifteen years back vis-a-vis the one who retires today in the same rank. When both go out to the grocer, they pay the same price for atta that they buy, they pay the same for the vegetables which feed their families, they are also expected to maintain a similar level of daily life, so why the sharp difference in their pensions?

Precisely this is the reason why the concept OROP, came into inception. At a rudimentary level, it simply means similar pension for similar rank for an equal length of service. It is not only desirable, but highly logical. Agreeable is the suggestion that ideally it must be applied to all services under the government, military or otherwise, but then we do not live in an ideal world and till that final objective is achieved for all other classes of employees, military veterans do have a case for favourable consideration as explained in the succeeding lines.

As would be expected in any democracy, departments concerned or dealing with the Armed Forces of most nations strongly stand behind their men and women in uniform and plead for the best of benefits from their respective governments. But in our country, the Ministry of Defence (MoD), till recently, was legendary in always taking an adversarial stand against the profession of arms. And not straying from this dubious legacy, it were elements of the same Ministry that always opposed the grant of OROP to military veterans repeatedly citing financial, administrative and legal impediments for resisting the concept, and in the bargain, attempting not only to mislead and misguide the highest of political executive, but even Parliamentary Committees. While financial constraints are well understood and appreciated, there is never too high a price to pay for those who protect us at the peril of their lives. Under the garb of administrative constraints, it was pointed out by the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare (DESW) of the MoD to a Parliamentary Committee in 2011 (Koshyari Committee) that OROP was not feasible to implement since documents of military personnel are weeded out after 25 years- an incorrect averment, to say the least. In reality, it is the documents of non-pensioners that are weeded out in 25 years as per Regulation 595 of the Regulations for the Army. Moreover, the Pension Payment Orders (PPOs) of pensioners which contain all relevant details such as the rank last held and the length of service are retained during the lifetime of each pensioner and then during the lifetime of the family pensioner  in case of demise of the former, and  these details, which are the only two basic requirements for OROP, are also available in a document called “Long Roll” which is maintained in perpetuity in terms of Regulation 592 of the Regulations for the Army. Of course, a complaint to the then Raksha Mantri related to false statements by representatives of the MoD to the Parliamentary Committee and also to Constitutional Courts did not elicit any action whatsoever, as expected. Even the legal constraints pointed out by the DESW repeatedly hold no ground since the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Maj Gen SPS Vains, being the latest on the subject, fully endorses the concept of OROP.

Another strange bogey historically put across by the establishment has been the imaginary fear that “other employees” would also start demanding OROP. This argument too is faulty at multiple levels. Firstly, it is a fact that no civilian pensioners’ body has ever opposed additional pensionary benefits to military veterans and mostly civilian peers have supported the cause, tacitly and even overtly. Secondly, unique service conditions such as living away from the family in a strictly regimented, at times hazardous and highly stressful environment, maintaining two households on being posted away from family, being under a disciplinary code 24 hours a day, 365 days a year et al make an additional dispensation such as OROP all the more justified. Thirdly, depending upon rank, soldiers start retiring at the age of 34 which is not the case in any other service including comrades of the Central Armed Police Forces who also no doubt face tough service conditions. Fourthly, civil employees are blessed with a much higher lifetime earning as compared to military employees and they also are fortunate to see multiple salary revisions through subsequent pay commissions. Fifthly, a much higher system of calculating pensions remained applicable to the defence services till the third pay commission when it was abruptly discontinued and military pensioners were suddenly (broadly) equated with civilian pensioners in many aspects. Sixthly, the fear of ‘similar demands’ also now does not hold much water since other employees (post-2004) are on a New (Contributory) Pension Scheme which is much different than the traditional pension system of the Government. Seventhly, contrary to popular perception, and interestingly, the average life expectancy of military personnel and veterans is much lower than other civilian employees, especially at the lower ranks.

With a proactive Prime Minister, a sensitive Defence Minister and other former soldiers on Ministerial berths, the new Government has definitely given hope to defence pensioners in the well known demands of the military community in issues such as OROP as well as other insidious matters such as the way disabled soldiers and military widows are treated by the system. The new government, which now seems to be getting a grip of things, however must ensure that the political will in this regard is imposed and enforced with an iron fist from the top downwards towards the bottom and not the other way round. The last few years have been witness to a deleterious culture whereby junior Section Officer and Under Secretary level officers were ruling the roost by initiating misleading noting sheets which were approved till the very top without question. The one-way imposition of appalling, illegal, illogical and negative policies hence emanated from below with the top brass merely affixing initials. The attitude must shift from ‘how a thing cannot be done’ to finding ways to move towards a constructive and positive foundation. The Defence Accounts Department must also not be allowed to influence policy or present exaggerated figures by juggling with numbers as was seen in the last few years. The office of the Controller General of Defence Accounts is only responsible for accounts and auditing and must not be seen as the policy-maker as has been the case in the last few years wherein the MoD has been asking the former to draft policies and government letters related to pay, allowances and pensions of defence services.

Per chance, co-extensive with the proactive top brass in the government, the higher echelons of the military have also seen some changes including the newly appointed Adjutant General of the Army who is expected to make a change with his sensitive and pragmatic approach. It is a perfect opportunity for the defence services to work in tandem with the government to ameliorate the problems being faced by the veteran community. The fillip to the Veterans’ Cell in the Army HQ, which is rendering excellent service, is a step in the right direction. It would in fact augur well for the system, if just like the DESW, the military too cleans up its act especially in its Personnel Services directorate and Record Offices, some elements of which are also ensconced in cobwebs of negativity and rigidity and who do not let the seniors in the chain of command look at issues with an optimistic vision. File notings are framed in such a manner so as to ensure the elicitation of a negative decision. This attitude must change, so must the structure of initiating multiple litigation by the establishment against old veterans, disabled soldiers and military widows.  Military veteran organisations too must not take extreme positions or bicker amongst themselves. In fact, the veteran community expects veteran organisations to play a beneficial role and facilitate a well oiled overall veteran welfare machinery, bereft of politics.

The time is right, the leadership is optimal; however it needs to be instilled and drilled into the authorities dealing with the welfare of soldiers that an environment of positivity needs to be inculcated towards our men and women in uniform. All stakeholders must shun rigidity, sit together and work towards smooth and early implementation by efficiently ironing out the creases without any delay. Friction and antagonism is not in national interest.

It is our obligation that we must rise to the occasion, aid and assist the current leadership in ensuring a better deal to our protectors. Issues concerning our veterans and also our serving soldiers have to be dealt with a caring, sympathetic, compassionate and sensitive approach and not in the environ of pessimism or  with the spirit of hyper-technicality and hyper-legalese. It is time for all of us to salute our men and women in uniform who protect our freedom in this proud democracy, not with lip-service but with steps that facilitate them in day to day life.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Supreme Court again upholds the dignity of disabled soldiers

Again coming to the rescue of disabled soldiers denied disability pension, the Supreme Court has yesterday rendered a detailed landmark decision holding that any disability that arises during service is to be deemed to have been caused by military service unless reasons are recorded as to how the disability was such which could not have been detected at the time of entering into service.

Before I proceed with more details, I must put it on record that the present times are the best for military veterans. The political leadership, that is, the current Defence Minister, is inclined to resolve all such issues, especially related to disabled veterans, and the military brass dealing with the subject seems to have a pragmatic leader in the new Adjutant General. They need to now implement their vision and enforce the law of the land without being bothered about the personal opinion of their staff. I have, in the past, discussed in detail the issue how the establishment (more specifically the medical set-up) is being unfair to our disabled soldiers by its hyper-technical and mathematical approach.

The decision, while dismissing 26 appeals filed by Ministry of Defence against disability pension granted by High Courts and Armed Forces Tribunal to physically and psychiatrically disabled soldiers, again reiterates what had been held by the Supreme Court in 2013 in Dharamvir’s case, in 2014 in Sukhwinder’s case and also by the Punjab & Haryana High Court in its landmark judgement in Umed Singh’s case again in 2014. The following is notable from the dicta of the Supreme Court:

A. The opinion of the medical board stating that a disability is “neither attributable to, nor aggravated by military service” is not sufficient to deny disability pension to disabled soldiers.

B. As per rules, a presumption of fitness operates when a person joins service and it is also presumed under the rules that any deterioration that has taken place in the health of a soldier is due to military service.

C. Claimant is not to be called upon to prove entitlement and he/she shall receive the benefit of doubt.

D. If the medical board holds that the disability could not have been detected on medical examination at the time of acceptance in service, reasons for the same shall be stated.

E. Provision for payment of disability pension is a beneficial provision which ought to be interpreted liberally so as to benefit those who have been sent home with a disability at times even before they completed their tenure in the armed forces

F. The burden to establish non-connection of disability with service would lie heavily upon the employer since the rules raise a presumption that deterioration in the health of soldiers is on account of military service or aggravated by it. A soldier cannot be asked to prove that the disease was contracted by him on account of military service or was aggravated by the same.

Thanks to the Supreme Court and the Delhi and Punjab & Haryana High Courts for ensuring a life of dignity to our disabled soldiers.  

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The 7th Central Pay Commission: The Services should ensure a better deal for the Short Service Commission Scheme

Now that the issues tagged with the 7th Central Pay Commission are gaining momentum, it is very important to again bring to light the matters related to the scheme of Short Service Commission, which arguably is being thought of as the backbone of the officer cadre of the defence services for the future.

A few years ago, the Short Service Commission Scheme of the Army was regressively tweaked from the earlier 5+5+4 system to the 10+4 system making service of 10 years compulsory in the Army for such officers. This was ostensibly done to make the scheme more ‘attractive’, but ironically, this is the greatest disservice that could ever be rendered and has had just the opposite effect. The reasons why I say so can be fathomed from this old post of mine:

A. There is no seniority protection in the civil services for former SS officers anymore, which means that an ex-SSCO starts his/her civil career alongwith civil direct recruits 10 years younger to him/her and atleast two ranks junior to his/her former status in the Army.

B. If joining the corporate world, the ex-SS officer again starts at a point of the ladder where he/she competes with youngsters who already have had a head-start which the former SS officer missed out due to his/her joining the Army.

C. Ex-Servicemen benefits are entitled only on completion of terms of engagement which means that the said benefits which were earlier available after 5 years, are now available after serving for 10.

D. 10% of appointments at Assistant Commandant (Lieutenant equivalent) level in the CAPFs are reserved for SSCOs. There is no protection of seniority. Hence, ex-SSCOs of Major and Lt Col level are expected to join at Lieut level (GP 5400) in the CAPFs which makes the entire reservation redundant.

E. After completing 10 years of service, an SSCO is in his/her 30s and to expect him/her to then look around for a fruitful career, in my opinion, is otiose.

It may be important to point out that in the civil services, in accordance with Rule 49 (2) (b) of the Central Civil Services (Pension) Rules, 1972, civil employees become eligible for pension after serving the govt for 10 years, whereas our SSCOs are released without a pension and are only granted a gratuity even after serving 14 years. After the 6th CPC, civil employees are now entitled to full pension after serving 10 years under the ibid rule (it was 33 years for full pension prior to 6th CPC). Of course the 10 year rule on the civil side only applies to those who are released or retired after completing 10 years and not to voluntary retirees. The above applies to pre-2004 recruited employees and the ones who joined service after the said date are eligible for benefits under the New Pension Scheme. 

On learning that the defence services had made no recommendation of a proper pension scheme for SSCOs to the 7th CPC, I had duly pointed out its very pertinent requirement if we were to ensure retention of talent in this very important cadre of the military.

In short, the top brass of the Ministry of Defence and also the defence services, without being unduly guided by personal opinions of their staff, must take a holistic view and address the following issues to retain talent in the Short Service Commission and to maintain the izzat and sheen of the military rank in the civil society in general:

(1) Reverting back to the system of 5+5+4 years terms of engagement rather than the 10+4 years which leaves our officers neither here nor there.

(2) Introduction of pension after 10 years for those who opt to continue beyond 5 years on the lines of Rule 49 (2)(b) on the civil side, or a suitable contributory pension scheme.

(3) Ensuring retention and protection of seniority and status in the civil services for SSCOs.

(4) Restoration of outpatient medical facilities to released SSCOs and ECOs which were illegally withdrawn by the Director General of Armed Forces Medical Services.


Though the above steps are not exhaustive, it is only now that putting our brains together could make any positive dent, otherwise, the matter would further be postponed for another 10 years to the next pay commission. The Services HQ should stand up and take a call!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Update on the issue of illegal withdrawal of Toll Tax Exemption from serving defence personnel

Just to update all of you, in continuance of my detailed letter to Mr Nitin Gadkari, I have received a communication from the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways inter alia conveying therein that they are open to re-examining the issue of the (illegal) withdrawal of toll tax exemption to serving defence personnel and that they have sought comments of the Ministry of Defence/Army HQ on the same. Further action shall follow once the comments are received.

I have already requested the Services HQ to fast-track the matter and ensure that the impugned illegal letter is withdrawn at the earliest.

I hope and wish that due seriousness is shown on the subject by the Services. I have already expressed my sentiments on the duty of the Services HQ of standing behind their men and women in uniform on such issues.


Will keep readers updated on the subject.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A few developments and then some....

I just thought of updating readers on a few issues.

The current Raksha Mantri has admirably made a statement of ‘not pursuing’ approximately four to five thousand appeals filed by the Ministry of Defence against disabled soldiers. Though the Ministry had no other choice in wake of the decision of the Supreme Court dismissing more than 800 such appeals on 10 December 2014, the move is still welcome and reflects a change for the better in the way political leadership perceives such issues. It remains to be seen however as to how the ensconced mandarins in the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare (DESW) of the Ministry and the Personnel Services Directorate (PS Directorate) of the Army HQ would be tamed. With a sensitive political leadership and a proactive Adjutant General currently in chair, things appear positive.

Mr Derek O’Brien and Ms Smriti Z Irani were two MPs who had shown concern in the Parliament about disabled soldiers and the litigation unleashed on them by the Ministry of Defence and also about the injustice to them even by military medical boards. Mr O’Brien has penned a short opinion on the subject in which he has graciously mentioned Ms Irani too- readers may like to peruse it by clicking here.


Lot of noise has been made with many veterans writing letters to the current Raksha Mantri condemning his move and thought-process of basing OROP on the number of years spent in the retiring rank. This assumption and perception is incorrect and imaginary. As far as I know, there is NO MOVE of calculating OROP based on the length of service in the last rank. What the Minister, and later Col Rathore, were trying to convey was that personnel retiring with similar service in the same rank were today superannuating at varied stages of pay (and hence pension) and efforts were on to harmonize the situation and arrive at a figure of OROP for each rank. Yes, there are elements in the bureaucracy who would not like to see the actual definition of OROP through, but I am sure they are not having such a free run in the current dispensation. The proof of the pudding however, of course, is in the eating. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

OROP, Col Rathore’s op-ed and needless hairsplitting

While I agree with most of the points raised by veteran organisations on One Rank One Pension (OROP) and I also agree that it has been unduly delayed because of exaggerated figures and overstated fears propelled by the Defence Accounts Department, I fail to understand why Col Rajyavardhan Rathore’s recent write-up has been perceived by some as a dampener.

It was not. And actually it was reassuring.

While writing the op-ed, perhaps what he wanted to convey was the predicament that the political set-up was facing at arriving at exact figures constituting OROP for each rank. When he said that people spending different lengths of time in each rank were not getting equal pensions because of varied salaries at the time of retirement, he was not attempting to dilute the concept of OROP but only stating a fact which we need to address. For example, today, two officers of the same rank commissioned and superannuating on the same date may not be retiring with the same last drawn pay and hence not receiving exactly the same pension, and then which of the two figures would constitute OROP for past retirees is perhaps the very real question that is engaging the political executive. But this poser was also qualified by the Colonel by stating that they were committed to harmonize this situation without ‘penalizing’ anyone. This itself should be comforting that a solution is being searched for this issue and not the perpetuation of the problem. Take it on a scale of positivity and not with a pinch of salt.

The answer perhaps would be to find an agreeable figure of pension for retirees of each rank by keeping 2014 as the base year of retirement- upgrade those who are below that figure and protect those who are above that figure and then pass the said benefit to all pre-2014 retirees with a yearly review with all past retirees retiring in similar rank receiving the pension of current retirees of the same rank with same length of service. However all of this has to be done within the four corners of definition mentioned in the Parliament, without dilution.

Whatever be the outcome, whatever be the ultimate solution, in a democracy we would be free to disagree or agree with what is proposed or implemented, but my idea of putting these few words above is that I did not see anything negative or objectionable in Col Rathore’s oped, in fact, I found it desirable in light of the undue delay. I also do not blame veteran organisations in being skeptical since their cynicism is not without reason. I just request that we should not get into a hairsplitting exercise or search for negativity even where it does not live. 


Thursday, January 1, 2015

To wake us up, pearls of wisdom from our Constitutional Courts over the ages- for our military personnel, veterans and their families

Despite the pitfalls, we should be grateful for living in a democracy and a vibrant one at that. I have often said so on this blog and elsewhere that more than any other institution, it is our Constitutional Courts that have stood like a rock behind the rights of our men and women in uniform and military veterans.

For the benefit of readers, I just thought of compiling some pearls of wisdom from our Constitutional Courts- speaking for those who do not have a voice. My only request to you is, read this slowly, and carefully. And imbibe positivity in your daily dealings with your own.

Of course, the system is still sleeping.

The Supreme Court in Union of India Vs Capt CS Sidhu (2010):

....Before parting with this case, we regret to say that the army officers and army men in our country are being treated in a shabby manner by the government...The army personnel are bravely defending the country even at the cost of their lives and we feel that they should be treated in a better and more humane manner by the governmental authorities, particularly, in respect of their emoluments, pension and other benefits....


The Supreme Court in Sukhwinder Singh Vs Union of India (2014):

....We, just as every other citizen of India, would be extremely disturbed if the Authorities are perceived as being impervious or unsympathetic towards members of the Armed Forces who have suffered disabilities, without receiving any form of recompense or source of sustenance, since these are inextricably germane to their source of livelihood.

....Secondly, the morale of the Armed Forces requires absolute and undiluted protection and if an injury leads to loss of service without any recompense, this morale would be severely undermined...


The Supreme Court in Charanjit Kaur Vs Union of India (1994):

....This case is a glaring example of gross negligence and callousness on the part of the authorities and the consequent indescribable mental torment and physical and financial hardship caused to the widow and two minor children of an Army Officer. The apathy and the extremely casual attitude adopted by the officers concerned travelled even to the proceedings in this Court and are writ large on the affidavit-in-reply which they have filed in response to the petition...


The Punjab & Haryana High Court in Barkat Masih Vs Union of India (2014) while dealing with the stand of the Government denying disability benefits to soldiers suffering injuries while on authorized leave:

....We find that grant of such leave has dual purpose. Firstly, to give time to the personnel of the Armed Forces to attend to their domestic chores which in their absence while on active service, family members may not be in position to handle. The second is that after arduous nature of duties, some time is required to rejuvenate the Armed Forces Personnel while they are in touch with the civil society. It prepares them for further active duty. In the absence of leave which is necessary for maintaining mental equilibrium, the grant of leave is necessary for discharge of their duties in an efficient manner. With these dual objectives in mind, leave is granted to all Armed Forces Personnel be it the officers or the other ranks. The grant of leave is a necessity to keep the personnel of the Armed Forces in good mental shape. The personnel of the Armed Forces are entitled to periodical breaks to provide mental stimulus, and psychological upliftment. Therefore, without grant of leave, one cannot imagine that somebody can discharge duties continuously 24 x 7 x 365 days of a year. In fact the leave is basic human right even recognized by the United Nations “Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948” to which India is signatory. Article 24 of such declaration is that “Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay”. In CESC Ltd. vs Subhash Chandra Bose (1992) 1 SCC 441, the Supreme Court examined international covenants and held that the health and strength of a worker is an integral facet of right to life. Though the said case pertains to workers in an industrial establishment and that the applicability of the fundamental rights to the Armed Forces can be restricted in terms of Article 33 of the Constitution but we find that the personnel of the Armed Forces are entitled to rest and leisure as a basic human right....

....It is also not disputed that during leave, the personnel of Armed Forces are liable to maintain discipline and are governed by the provisions of the Army Act, 1950 or the Rules framed there under and in a case of any misconduct, liable to be proceeded against. If the personnel of the Armed Forces are entitled to discipline and control of the Army Act 1950, the corresponding duty of the Armed Forces is to take care of their personnel when on leave. It is necessary commitment of the Army....


The Delhi High Court in Maj Arvind Kumar Suhag Vs Union of India (2013):

....It seems that the military bureaucracy in this case or someone within it felt that since injuries were described more specifically as “accidents” while travelling on duty in government vehicles” – in category (C) of the letter/policy dated 31.01.2011, the petitioner was disentitled to war injury pension. The Tribunal’s bland acceptance of these decisions has regrettably resulted in denial of justice to the petitioner. This Court is, therefore, of the opinion that the impugned order of the Tribunal cannot be sustained. The petitioner’s claim for grant of war injury pension in terms of Clause 4.1(E)(i) has to succeed….

....In parting, this Court cannot resist observing that when individuals place their lives on peril in the line of duty, the sacrifices that they are called upon to make cannot ever be lost sight of through a process of abstract rationalisation as appears to have prevailed with the respondents and with the Tribunal….

....He, like any other personnel, operated under extremely trying circumstances unimaginable to those not acquainted with such situations. The cavalier manner in which his claim for war injury pension was rejected by the respondents, who failed to give any explanation except adopt a textual interpretation of Clauses (C) and (E), is deplorable. In these circumstances, the petitioner deserves to succeed….


The Punjab & Haryana High Court in Maj Arvind Kumar Suhag Vs State of Haryana (2010):

.…Ex-gratia payment is not always, paradoxically, an act of charity....The act of heroism which the statement claims that the petitioner's act did not evoke, is in some sense a wrongly exaggerated expression. I do not see from the terms of the policy that the person must have been there actually placing his fingers on the trigger of a gun or hurling a bomb in military action to be entitled to the promised payment. A person, who is in the place of action in the Army and who suffers an injury in the manner contemplated in the policy, which includes an accident in an operational area that is not due to negligence of the person, could well make a successful claim....

....If we must give the expression battle casualty any meaning, I would understand it to mean to a situation where a person while actively involved in the military service in an area, which is a battle zone suffers an injury, then it shall be a battle casualty....

....If there is, therefore, a certificate that the petitioner has suffered a battle casualty (see para 1 above), to take a different view and stonewall the claim of the petitioner from obtaining a benefit of the policy will make meaningless the beneficient and lofty objective which the policy proffers....



The Punjab & Haryana High Court in Daljeet Kaur Vs Union of India (2004):

....Love of a mother for her children has, since time immemorial, been placed at the highest pedestal. When a mother loses a hale and hearty child in some unfortunate accident, she suffers a tragedy which is personal to her and is of such magnitude that it defies description in mere words. The love of the mother is akin to the love of the earth for its inhabitants. It is perhaps this boundless love which prompts and compels the entire mankind to revere this planet as the "MOTHER-EARTH". It is well known that the mother-earth keeps replenishing its natural resources to support the humanity, inspite of the mindless plunder committed upon it by us. We are of the opinion that keeping such like sentiments in view, the Union of India has been promulgating various schemes to give special benefits in cases of death and disability in service benefits in cases of death and disability in service including the payment of ex-gratia lump sum compensation….

....Alas even these provisions will, at best, go only a little way towards assuaging the feeling of utter devastation of the mother who loses a son, whilst performing his patriotic duties for the protection of the Nation. Can the benefits sought to be given to the unfortunate legal heir of a deceased military personnel whose case falls clearly within these instructions, be permitted to be negated by a bureaucratic army officer sitting in his Ivory Tower by sheer mis-interpretation of the instructions, is the significant question of law which arises in this petition. We are constrained to give a preface to this judgment with the aforesaid remarks, due to the peculiar facts and circumstances of this case, which we now notice….


Other democracies:

Even the Supreme Court of the United States in Henderson Vs Shinseki (2010) has commented that the Government should act in a non-adversarial manner in benefits of veterans:

....The solicitude of Congress for veterans is of longstanding.... laws place a thumb on the scale in the veteran’s favour in the course of administrative and judicial review of VA decisions... We have long applied the canon that provisions for benefits to members of the Armed Services are to be construed in the beneficiaries’ favor....


In Holton Vs Shinseki (2009), the US Court for Federal Circuit held:

....A veteran “need not show that his injury occurred while he was performing service related duties or acting within the course and scope of his employment in order to receive disability benefits; for purposes of disability compensation, a service member’s workday never ends....

In 2015, let us confer a solid salute again to our Constitutional Courts.


Jai Hind.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

ALERT: Price slashed for my book “MAIMED BY THE SYSTEM” @ Amazon for a limited period during the Holiday Season (and another positive development)

First things first. It is learnt that the Raksha Mantri has today made a statement during Good Governance celebrations that he has instructed the Ministry of Defence to minimize litigation in pension matters. A good step, let us see how it pans out practically.

The price for my latest book “Maimed by the System” has been slashed for the holiday period on Amazon India. The offer shall remain valid from today till the First of January, 2015. The book is now available at Rs 449 compared to the street price of Rs 580.


It is a non-commercial project and part of its proceeds shall be used for the welfare of disabled soldiers and military widows.

Reports and Reviews on the book can be accessed through these links:










A preview of the preface of the book is as follows:


PROLOGUE

Nishchay Kar Apni Jeet Karon


Happy is the way to meet your burdens
No matter how heavy or dark the day
Pity on those with no hope for tomorrow
It's never as bad as it seems until we say


On this point of departure, let me iterate that it is hope and triumph that this book embodies, not despair. In your hands is a compilation of real stories of military personnel and their kin who had to put up difficult and protracted battles with officialdom, something they were clearly unprepared for, to claim their basic rights post disability, post battle and many posthumously.

These are stories that highlight our callous indifference to those who protect us. These are stories which ideally should awaken those who symbolise the system and also hold a fond hope that there would be no further need to publish another such book. These are stories that need to be told.

It is ironic that the ones who are entrusted with the duty of concern for the needs and requirements of our military veterans and their kin have abdicated that responsibility, leading to a sense of extreme discontentment and an unjust situation where benefits which should flow as a matter of right, come at a price. The price is heavy, for it costs us our national pride and faith in the system- that system which should steadfastly support those who serve it but has contemptuously chosen to stand in opposition, putting a stumbling block in their every prayer.

That is not to say that there has not been support. But the support which should emanate from within the system or from the public at large- the public which is quick to render theoretical lip-service but not on-ground support, is lacking. The support has only originated from judicial process and our media, both print and electronic. But that is clearly not enough.

These stories are simple accounts of difficult struggles that were eventually successful. These are real life chronicles of people who fought the system and succeeded. These are stories that eschew despair in the face of utter darkness; these are stories that ought to be heard because these are stories meant to inspire and not to deepen any sense of hopelessness.

Appended to these accounts is a section of Selected Works containing my detailed and popular writings on subjects intertwined with the central theme. These works already stand featured and published in various dailies, blogs, periodicals and journals. In some stories, these are cross-referred.

More than any other institution, as mentioned in the opening tribute, it is our Constitutional Courts which have rendered rock-solid support to our soldiers and their families in their genuine causes, especially disabled personnel and military widows, when they were abandoned by the system. Through the many summers of our independent history, the real public service in this has been effectuated specifically by the Delhi and the Punjab & Haryana High Courts- the former because of sensitivity and experience in dealing with these issues over time and over an extended canvas, and the latter because it is the Constitutional Court of States which have seen battle from the closest quarters.

But more than the support of the judicial process or the media, what is needed is a sensitive and sensitised political executive. The problem has always been that decisions are taken at the bottom and endorsed by the top and not taken by the top and percolated to the bottom. The closest topical example would be the salutary intention of the current Prime Minister to minimise litigation against military veterans and their families, an intention which is being held hostage by junior level staff of the incongruously titled Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare of the Ministry of Defence. The reason is simple: lower functionaries initiate file notings in such a manner that it becomes difficult for the decision-makers to avoid a negative decision. Files are framed in a one-sided mode so as to elicit a pessimistic response from the top. And then these functionaries are the ones who interact with the decision-making authorities regularly and hence are able to convince them by isolating them from the stakeholders by forming a regressive coterie. The answer to overcome this is simple. The political executive should apply mind on every ensuing decision which affects the lives of millions of veterans and their kin and such decisions should only be taken after discussing the concerned issue with stakeholders across the board and across the table providing them a chance to rebut the inputs of babudom which may vary from ambiguous to pure white lies.

Ditto for the military bureaucracy. Senior military appointments must go deep into issues which have a bearing on others and not simply rely on what is put up from below. There have been instances wherein within the military, directions of even the Chief of the Army Staff in favour of disabled soldiers have been ignored and opinions of mere Under Secretary level officers have been granted primacy and allowed to prevail. It is time to grow a spine and stand up for your own, it is time sadism and peer jealously are curbed and positivity and sensitivity encouraged and inculcated. Passion for one’s work and compassion for one’s comrades is the clarion call. Believe me, it is the most agonising experience to see the Army itself blindly oppose its veterans, disabled soldiers, military widows and their kin in Courts and other fora on the pretext of defending ‘Government Policies’ rather than making attempts to stand up for their own fraternity and vociferously vouching for a change and rationalisation of such anomalous and spiteful policies. Even delegated powers are not put into motion, and displaying lack of confidence, unnecessary clarifications are sought from others which are bound to result in negative responses. And what is the point in having judicial bodies at all in a democracy if policies framed by the executive are to be treated as so sacrosanct? Are we bound by the principles of equity, justice and law as laid down by Constitutional Courts or by limited knowledge and sadistic opinions reflected by junior staffers on files? It is time to shun timidity and look into such issues through the hurt of those who are pained and not via the pen of a babu.

A beginning has to be made somewhere and it is you and I who have to march towards a constructive foundation.

Yes, the system is you. The system is I.

Let us transform it. Let it not maim anymore.

The lines in the beginning were sung by Prince. And before I sign off, he sings again-

In your life did you just give a little?
Or did you give all that you had?
Or were you just somewhere in the middle?
Not too good, not too bad?