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Thursday, July 31, 2008

National Commission for Ex-Servicemen (More appropriately NATIONAL VETERANS’ COMMISSION) may soon become a reality

This blogger was always in favour of a statutory body dealing with the grievances of serving and retired members of the uniformed forces.

A proposal for enactment of a "Servicemembers’ Redressal of Grievances Act" imposing a duty on civil public authorities to respond / act in a time-bound manner on grievances of members of the military drafted by this blogger was forwarded to the govt by the Army and is currently pending. Full details of the features of the Act alongwith a presentation and draft is available on this blog at http://indianmilitarybenefits.blogspot.com/2008/05/proposed-servicemembers-redressal-of.html

Various Parliamentary Committees had also favoured the formation of a Commission for the welfare of Ex-Servicemen, an outline paper for which was presented by this blogger at an earlier occasion. Now it is learnt that the govt is moving in the direction of creating a National Ex-Servicemen Commission (National Veterans’ Commission would be more appropriate).
A press story on the same is available here (Thanks to 'The Tribune).

The outline draft submitted by this blogger is presented below :-

Rough outline of the proposed National Veterans’ Commission

(Note : The below mentioned is just a proposal as of now)

1. Proposal :- It is proposed to constitute a National Veterans’ Commission (for the ease of use – ‘NVC’) having its seat at Delhi.

2. Jurisdiction :- The NVC shall have jurisdiction on the entire country over problems and grievances of veterans of the three services. The Commission shall have the power of dealing with a complaint suo-moto or through a petition presented before it, by any victim or anyone on behalf of such a victim, relating to the violation of human rights of a veteran or negligence in looking into the grievance of a veteran by any public authority. The Act shall have a provision that each public authority in India would be required to look into and act upon a grievance of a veteran within a period of 30 days from the date such grievance is forwarded to that particular public authority.

3. The definition of ‘Veteran’ :- The definition of ‘veteran’ need not be configured or linked with the existing definition of ‘ex-serviceman’. We need to give a wider canvas to the definition of ‘Veteran’. The term ‘Veteran’ shall include any person being a citizen of India who has served in any of the Armed Forces of the Union in any rank for a period of six months or more in total and has been discharged due to any reason other than misconduct, dismissal or removal.

4. Appointment of Chairperson and Members :- It is proposed that the NVC may be a three member body with a Chairperson and two members. The Chairperson may be a retired judge of the Supreme Court and the members may consist of retired High Court judges or retired officers of the rank of Lt General or equivalent from other services. The Chairperson and members shall serve for a period of 5 years or till the age of 70 years, whichever is earlier.

5. Powers of the Commission :- The NVC shall have the power to direct any public authority in India to remove the grievance of a veteran or to take steps for containing any human rights violation relating to a Veteran.

6. Enforcement of Orders :- The orders passed by the Commission shall be judicial orders for the proposes of their implementation and execution.

7. Seat of the Commission :- The Commission shall have its seat at New Delhi but the Chairperson may direct members of the Commission to hold circuit benches anywhere in India if the need arises.

8. Power to hold Enquiry :- The Commission while passing final orders under the Act may hold an enquiry into issues relating to grievances of Veterans and while holding such enquiries, the Commission shall have the power of summoning and examining witnesses, enforcing their attendance, examining documents etc as vested in a Civil Court while trying a Civil Suit.

9. Receiving Complaints and Petitions :- The NVC may receive a Complaint or a Petition from any Veteran being a citizen of India (or anyone on his or her behalf) in any manner whether written, electronic or oral. There shall not be a prescription of any formal format of a Complaint before the NVC.

10. Proceedings before NVC :- Just like Information Commissions, presence of the Complainant / Petitioner before the NVC would not be mandatory.

11. Time Limit for action :- The NVC shall decide each case before it within a period of 60 days from institution, further extendable to 120 days for reasons recorded in writing.

12. Punishment :- Each order passed by the NVC would be a judicial order. The NVC would have the power to impose a fine of Rs 250 per day of delay on action of a grievance of a Veteran (subject to a maximum of Rs 50,000) or from day an order is passed by the NVC.

Maj Navdeep Singh
Advocate, Punjab & Haryana High Court
House No 1063, Sector 2, Panchkula – 134 112, Haryana
navdeepsingh.india@gmail.com Phone: 093161-32817

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