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 Legal advice/litigation related issues would strictly NOT be published or discussed or entertained.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.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Two updates: (1) Supreme Court reiterates- No discrimination based on cut-off dates while liberalizing existing pensionary benefits (2) MoD’s letter on pension revision is under issuance

In its latest decision titled AN Sachdeva Vs MDU, Rohtak, the Supreme Court has once again reiterated that cut-off dates cannot come in the way of upward liberalization of pensionary benefits. The Apex Court, after going into the length and breadth of the issue and all past decisions on the subject, has again come to the conclusion that retirees retiring prior to the cut-off date of liberalization of a pensionary scheme would also be entitled to the said benefits with monetary benefits from the said cut-off date which happened to be 2001 in this case.

The said issue had been decided by the Punjab & Haryana High Court against pensioners of the Maharishi Dayanand University, Rohtak, Haryana, but the Supreme Court has overturned the decision of the High Court.

The decision can be accessed by clicking here.

Chain mails are floating referring to a circular issued by the PCDA(P) stating that the MoD has issued orders concerning the implementation of the decision of the Supreme Court regarding grant of arrears from 01-01-2006 rather than 24-09-2012. The news is incorrect. The said circular only concerns defence civilian pensioners based on the letter issued for civilian pensioners by the Department of Pension and Pensioners’’ Welfare (DoPPW). It may kindly be understood that the PCDA(P) has no authority to issue circulars on its own till the time the MoD issues a Government letter to the said effect. However, the good news is that the MoD is also working on the same and the letter should be out soon. Some added time after the issuance of the DoPPW letter was expected to be taken by the MoD since there are certain additional issues to be addressed by the MoD over and above the ones in the DoPPW letter and a mutatis-mutandis letter could not have been issued. For example, the MoD is to add the Military Service Pay (MSP) also in addition to the elements in the civil letter and then unlike civil pensioners, separate tables would have to be ultimately prepared by the Defence Accounts Department for various ranks and different categories which are not applicable on the civil side. Moreover, the benefit of the upward revision would be differently applied to ranks other than Commissioned Officers since they had been granted pensions based on the maximum of 5th CPC scales fitted into the 6th CPC pay bands with effect from 01-07-2009 while officers and all civil employees were granted pensions based on minimum of pay of the pay bands. The comprehensive letter alongwith comprehensive tables would definitely be issued in due course and we would have to be a little patient about the same.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Need to tone down some keyboard warriors

The last few days have been saddening.

But more than the unfortunate events, what has bothered me is the irresponsible emails floating around, probably initiated by idle minds, related to attempts of some of our very senior veterans and Parliamentarians to find a solution to the OROP logjam as per the satisfaction of the veteran community.

General VP Malik was requested by the highest echelons of the Government to act as a bridge between the two sides in facilitating the implementation of OROP. He undertook the responsibility very reluctantly and after duly taking the go-ahead from senior veteran leaders. He very graciously asked me and Mr Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Member of Parliament, to assist him for clearing all his doubts on the subject, with only one aim in mind- the welfare of the veteran community. Mr Chandrasekhar, as we all know, has been rock solid in his support to the veteran community, including disabled soldiers and military widows.

General Malik tried his utmost best and merely acted as a connection between two sides so as to convey the thoughts of the veteran community on the OROP formula to the Government, and that too only after due consultation and permission from veterans at the vanguard. When no resolution was in sight, he himself genially withdrew.

I would like to assure everyone that there was no ‘deal’ brought forth by General Malik or others and he got involved with a very noble intention. And I can say it with full certainty and responsibility since I myself witnessed some of the events.

I would request all of you not to write irresponsible emails since such actions do not just sully reputations but also dishearten all of us who continue to work hard, even at the cost of time to our primary professions, for veteran welfare with all sincerity. This also results in burning bridges and closing all channels of discussions since many of us are at times in the position to talk to both sides with a sense of responsibility and it would not be correct to impute inferences which do not exist, except in the fertile minds of the idle few.

All of us are playing our roles in the best interests of our nation, some do it in the forefront, some in the background, but important nevertheless. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The loss of fundamental rights of the military community: Ray of hope as Supreme Court issues notice

Four months after a decision of the Supreme Court barring serving and retired members of the military community, and their family members, from approaching the High Court (a right available to every Citizen of India) when they were aggrieved by the orders of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) and consequently rendering them lesser citizens, the Supreme Court has graciously again put the Central Government on notice on the subject.

The March 2015 decision of the Supreme Court had come on a plea of the last Government wherein it was averred that the military community’s fundamental rights could be abrogated. It practically made the AFT the first and the last court for affected parties since even a direct appeal to the Supreme Court is barred under Section 31 of the Armed Forces Tribunal Act unless there is involvement of an exceptional ‘point of law of general public importance’. Today, while losing litigants on the civil side can have recourse to two layers of judicial review/appeal, their counterparts from the military community and their families have none. While even Kasabs and Memoms convicted by the highest Court of the land can exhaust their remedies time and again in case they are aggrieved by judicial process, the protectors of the frontiers and their families have nowhere to go.  

The fresh development has been covered at many places, some of such reports are:

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Inclusion of Non-Practicing Allowance in pension of Doctors as per decision of the Supreme Court: Orders finally issued for Military Doctors

As regular readers would be aware, the Supreme Court in KC Bajaj’s case had exposed the hollowness of official procedures and machinations in denying the element of Non-Practicing Allowance (NPA) to doctors of the Central Government.

The orders of the Supreme Court were finally implemented by the Department of Pension and Pensioners’ Welfare which issued universal orders for all affected doctors thereby ensuring that litigation by similarly placed doctors was curbed.

Now, following the same, the Ministry of Defence has also issued similar orders for similarly placed doctors.

Thanks to our old retired docs, including Col Rao, for following this up. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Final closure to the agony of pre-2006 pensioners: Universal orders issued today for revision of enhanced pension from 01-01-2006 rather than 24-09-2012

Following the decision of the Armed Forces Tribunal and the Central Administrative Tribunal, as upheld by a judgement of the Delhi High Court (which in turn was based upon a decision of the Punjab & Haryana High Court) and then endorsed by the Supreme Court, and further after various twists and turns, the Department of Pension and Pensioners’ Welfare (DoPPW) has finally issued universal orders regarding revision of pension of pre-2006 pensioners with effect from 01 Jan 2006 rather than 24 Sept 2012.

All affected pensioners (and not just litigants) shall now be eligible for arrears from 01-01-2006 till 23-09-2012.

A big thank you to all stalwarts who were at the forefront of this fight, including Mr V Natarajan, Lt Cdr Avtar Singh and members of the Bharat Pensioners Samaj.

Thank You. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

“We the People” on NDTV, Kargil, OROP, Military litigation and more....

On Kargil Vijay Diwas, Barkha Dutt conducted a special episode of “We the People” on NDTV where I too participated in the panel discussion. 

The stories and the narratives can bring a tear to the strongest eye. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Naysayers, please relax on the Panel of Experts on Defence Matters!

Some disinformation is floating around on the Committee of Experts constituted by the Raksha Mantri. I would like to clear the haze on some issues.

Some myths and their replies:

That the panel has been setup to divert attention from OROP

Totally incorrect. The formation of the panel was first discussed by the Raksha Matri in February, much before the current scenario, and the orders have been issued in July. The two are totally separate issues and do not overlap. The Committee would not be touching upon OROP at all.

That it is an attempt to appease and silence the voices of those who are its Members

Far from the truth. If this is the level of trust expressed for the Members of the Committee, then it is not only unfortunate but it is also clear that persons making such loose statements are not aware of our conviction and sincerity. Also, I think I should make it clear to everyone that all Members are functioning in a purely honorary capacity without any monetary gain and that too after squeezing out time from their respective professions with the aim of service to the society in mind.

The Committee would be handling grievances of soldiers and veterans

Untrue. The Committee is not mandated with such an unwieldy task. The Committee is not supposed to look into individual grievances but is supposed to suggest ways and means to decrease litigation involving the Ministry of Defence as well as the Defence Services and also to increase the level of trust and goodwill amongst the stakeholders in this regard by suggesting broad institutional and progressive changes to the system of redressal of grievances. The Committee would be looking into pending cases related to service matters and pensions and ways to minimize litigation so that the officialdom can focus on areas of core governance.

The panel is recommendatory and its recommendations may never see the light of the day

It is true that the report is recommendatory. All such commissions, expert panels and committees are recommendatory. But keeping in view the fact that it has been constituted by the Raksha Mantri himself and in line with the PM’s focus on governance, it is certainly not going to be an empty formality. Almost all major policy decisions concerning the nation are taken by way of reports of experts and panel inputs. Moreover, it is quite surprising to hear some minority voices of pessimism which say that though it is a good move, it would not be able to achieve its aim. So what should be done? Should such a proactive move taken for the first time since independence be aborted just because a minority feels it would serve no purpose? I would only emphatically like to say that it is much better to have a body of experts viewing these issues with a sharp spotlight so as to iron out the creases than having nothing at all. Also I must place on record that the there has been no pressure on us from any quarter related to our functioning and we are lucky to have such a situation wherein we have been tasked by the apex level of governance to work in a free and independent manner with full support of the political executive without fear or favour.

So naysayers, please relax. The move is in the right direction and a very progressive initiative of the Minister with his full personal involvement under the aegis of the Prime Minister. Let us not spread negativity till the flowers fully bloom. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Committee of Experts constituted on the orders of the Raksha Mantri

You may read more about this historic decision through the following links:

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Another landmark decision of the Supreme Court for pensioners

The Supreme Court has rendered another landmark decision on the subject of pension in a case titled State of Rajasthan Vs Mahendra Nath Sharma.

The Court, inter alia, has reiterated the following, tacitly and directly:

A. Pension is property and not a bounty based upon the sweet will or grace of the employer. DS Nakara therefore reiterated.
B. Arrears have to flow from date of inception of anomaly.

C. Employees who are not on rolls on the date of a subsequent revision of pensionary benefit(s) are also eligible for future revision of pension.

D. Govt should not perpetrate litigation.

The parting shot of the Apex Court:

“...It will be appropriate and apposite on the part of the employers to remember the same and ingeminate it time and again so that unnecessary litigation do not travel to the Court and the employers show a definite and correct attitude towards employees. We are compelled to say so as we find that the intention of the State Government from paragraph 5 of the circular/memorandum has been litigated at various stages to deny the benefits to the respondents. It is the duty of the State Government to avoid unwarranted litigations and not to encourage any litigation for the sake of litigation. The respondents were entitled to get the benefit of pension and the High Court has placed reliance on the decision of another High Court which has already been approved by this Court....”

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Transmission of Signals from the Supreme Court for Military Pensioners

Those who have followed the blog closely, especially this post of 27 May 2015, most of the verdicts on pension anomalies emanating out of the 6th Central Pay Commission stand decided in favour of pensioners by the Supreme Court, both for military as well as civilian retirees.

An update on the same is as below:

Removal of pension anomaly from 01-01-2006 rather than 24-09-2012 for pre-2006 retiree Central Government pensioners: Appeal filed by the Govt stands dismissed by the Supreme Court in March 2015. 

Removal of pension anomaly between Honorary Naib Subedars who retired prior to 01-01-2006 vis-a-vis those who retired after 01-01-2006: Appeal filed by the Govt stands dismissed in May 2015. An unfortunate saga indeed

Removal of pension anomaly between Viceroy Commissioned Officers and post-independence Honorary Commissioned Officers who retired prior to 01-01-2006: Appeal filed by the Govt stands dismissed in May 2015.

This invariably would result in multiple execution applications before the Armed Forces Tribunal since most of these verdicts had not been implemented by the Army HQ/Ministry of Defence as per the time prescribed even in those cases where there was no stay by any higher court.

It would be in fitness of things if the Army HQ (in conjunction with Record Offices) keeps lists of affected personnel ready so as to grant government sanction at the earliest to avoid complications as already experienced in the cases of disabled soldiers upheld by the Supreme Court. This is also a good opportunity to oil the implementation machinery well and bring it in line with the law of the land. Six years after the AFT was created, it is now clear that disregard of judicial orders may not be taken so lightly, as was the case till now.

Regular updates shall now also be available on my Facebook page.