From 'The Tribune', Chandigarh
Voluntary retirees from forces entitled to disability pension: SC
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, February 16In an order which would benefit a large number of armed forces personnel, the Supreme Court has ruled that disabled soldiers who opt pre-mature retirement at their own request are entitled to disability pension.
Defence personnel with disabilities attributable to or aggravated by military service are eligible for disability pension. The government, however, had been refusing payment of disability pension to personnel who had left the forces voluntarily on compassionate grounds. The reason given for denial was that such personnel were technically not deemed to have been invalided out of service.
Upholding a Delhi High Court order, A division bench of the apex court comprising Justice P P Naolekar and L S Panta a few days ago dismissed a special leave petition (SLP) filed by the Central government against the high court order.
Acting upon a petition filed by ex-soldier Mahavir Singh Narwal, a division bench of the HC, headed by Justice Vijender Jain had, in 2004, held that disabled personnel obtaining release on compassionate grounds would also remain entitled to disability pension.
The Central government had gone into appeal in the case and the Supreme Court stayed the operation of the HC order till it passed final orders in January and dismissed the SLP.
Entitlement Rules for disability pension notified by the central government in the year 1982, simply provide that an individual would be deemed to have been “invalided” if, at the time of release, he was in a lower medical category than the one in which he was recruited.
Lawyer and author of a book on military benefits, Capt Navdeep Singh informed that the Army had also time and again taken up the issue for grant of disability pension for voluntary retirees with the central government and successive pay commissions but to no avail. The issue has also reportedly been taken up with the Sixth Pay Commission.
The Pension Regulations for the Army provide that disability pension can be granted if a person is invalided out with 20 per cent or more disability. The Regulations further provide that persons discharged on completion of terms of engagement or attaining retirement age shall also be deemed to have been invalided out.
Many ex-servicemen and lawyers have been contending that disability pension is granted as a compensation for injuries and diseases suffered due to military service and an early compassionate or voluntary discharge had nothing to do with the underlying reason behind such pension.