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 Legal advice/litigation related issues would strictly NOT be published or discussed or entertained.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, 2009

(UPDATED) Non-Pensioners who are not members of ECHS can still avail treatment of serious diseases from civil hospitals

First an update : Central govt employees and pensioners would be entitled to 22% DA w.e.f 01 Jan 2009 - A hike of 6%.

Those who may have perused the previous post would now know that some MHs are refusing treatment to non-pensioner veterans even though they are entitled to it in accordance with Govt of India orders.

Till the time that issue is sorted out, non-pensioner veterans would be glad to know that they are entitled to treatment of serious diseases in civil hospitals too out of Ministry of Defence funds through the Kendriya Sainik Board (KSB). In fact vide Govt of India Letter 08 November 2004, financial assistance for diseases through the KSB is now only available to non-pensioners and not to pensioners who are entitled to ECHS. Under this scheme, veterans are entitled to reimbursement of their expenses for serious diseases such as Heart, Renal, Arterial diseases, strokes and cancers. Officers are entitled to a refund of 60% of treatment subject to certain guidelines while PBOR are entitled to a refund of 80%.

Please make this very important aspect known to people around you.

In an emergency, strict adherence of guidelines is dispensed with.

Policy letters on the subject can be viewed and downloaded by clicking here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The (mis)interpreters at the office of DGAFMS strike again : act in absolute contravention of Army Order and Presidential sanction

Let me start by saying that I hold AMC officers and the establishment of DGAFMS in high regard. But sometimes I wonder if some officers at the DGAFMS take themselves to be a separate entity than the regular army just because the office of DGAFMS comes directly under the MoD. Or if they feel that Orders issued by the COAS or Presidential sanctions issued by the MoD have no effect on them. I also wonder if they are keeping the top brass at M-Block informed of the policy letters they float.

I’m referring to the recent chaos that they have created by writing to all Commands that Short Service Commissioned Officers and Emergency Commissioned Officers (SSCOs and ECOs) are not entitled to medical facilities in MHs and that these facilities are only available to ex-service pensioners.

Bad one.

Earlier, Medical facilities were only available to the following categories of retired defence personnel :

(i) Ex-Service Pensioners

(ii) Families of Ex-Service Pensioners

(iii) Families of deceased personnel drawing pension of some kind

Then in the year 1996, the Ministry of Defence in the name of HE The President of India directed that the term ‘Ex-Service Pensioners’ shall be replaced by the term ‘Ex-Servicemen’ thus leading to the following entitled categories with effect from 26 Sept 1996 :

(i) Ex-Servicemen covered under the definition of ‘Ex- Serviceman’ issued by Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) from time to time

(ii) Families of Ex-Servicemen

(iii) Families of deceased personnel drawing pension of some kind.

As can be seen on a bare perusal of the Presidential Sanction (1996) and subsequent clarification by the office of DGAFMS (1997) by clicking here, the MoD for purposes of medical entitlement had simply adopted the definition of ‘ex-servicemen’ issued by the Department of Personnel and Training. Resultantly, all ex-servicemen irrespective of ‘pensioner’ status became entitled to medical facilities. This included all personnel released after completion of terms of engagement such as SSCOs and ECOs too. Medical entitlement cards were also issued by the AG's Branch to SSCOs and ECOs after the Govt sanction which are valid till date.

In 1998, an amendment to the existing Army Order on the subject of entitlement was also issued vide AO 08/98 whereby the term ‘ex-service pensioners’ was replaced by the new term ‘ex-servicemen’, needless to say, the AO was issued under the hand and seal of the COAS. The following was explicitly stated in the AO 08/98 :

“AO 10/97 is amended as follows :- (a) The term ‘Ex Service Pensioners wherever used in the AO is replaced with the term ‘Ex Servicemen’.”

Fast forward 2008/2009. Some officer in the office of DGAFMS has now circulated a letter (which is some vague response to a communication dealing with some RTI Application) to all Commands stating therein that medical facilities are only available to ex-service pensioners (time warp ?). The reason provided in the document is that the entitlement for medical facilities being quoted has been issued by the DoPT and not by the Army or the MoD and that the DoPT has no jurisdiction over medical facilities in the forces. Such an action puts on record the fact that the officer floating this letter has not just acted on hearsay but has also failed to even take a cursory look at the letter issued by the MoD or AO 08/98. The facility has not been granted by the DoPT. It has been granted by the MoD which has merely adopted for medical facilities the definition of ‘ex-servicemen’ as issued by DoPT. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out.

Ostensibly conveyed to reduce burden on MHs, such a move is in bad taste and in direct contravention of orders issued by the COAS and the govt. The problem is the lack of co-ordination and lack of stability in appointments dealing with welfare issues. More interesting is the fact that the office of DGAFMS has not issued any clear cut directions on withdrawl of such facilities but has merely appended some RTI related document mentioning that non-pensioners are not entitled to medical facilities.

Wherever we are, we should inform the medical establishment of the illegality of any such order. And the fact that MHs are now refusing to recognize Medical Entitlement Cards issued to SSCOs and ECOs by the AG's branch is something that should be taken up by the Services Headquarters strongly with the Medical Branch. While senior AMC officers understandably would not be having time to peruse such correspondence, they still should be careful of what goes out as policy letters from the M-Block, if there is dearth of administrative expertise then help may be taken from the AG's Branch. These released officers are our own, some ECOs are in the twilight of their lives and the office of DGAFMS damn well has to function under the orders and control of the COAS and within the four corners of Army Orders which are very much applicable to medical branch too. And in any case, these released officers are entitled to limited medical cover only, since the ECHS is limited in its application just to pensioners. That's why I time and again say that before blaming external forces, we need to look within and discard these self-imposed fetters.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Let us not bring disrepute to great institutions by individual actions (RTI related)

To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to knowledge - Benjamin Disraeli

Do we have to hide when there’s nothing wrong ?

Of course not. And that’s why I say, the RTI Act should be implemented in spirit and not just in letter. It has changed the way we look towards the govt and how the govt looks at its citizens. The services as a whole have implemented and adopted the Act in a genuine and welcoming manner, despite the fact that due to some strange logic, the CPOs have been kept outside the purview of the Act by virtue of Section 24 but the defence services are very much amenable to it. So there you have it, RTI does not apply to the BSF or Assam Rifles but it applies to the Army. But that is not the point I want to make here.

Most of the times, our RTI machinery, especially after the job was entrusted to the Education Branch, is judicious and very much careful in the application of the RTI Act. But sometimes we goof up and we goof up bad, and in the bargain the entire organisation suffers a bad name when the discredit should entirely go to those particular officers who handled that particular case. The problem remains in the holy cowish attitude ensconced in some of us. Some of us try to make sure how to look for ways to somehow put impediments in public life and derive sadistic pleasure out of it rather than create a conducive environment for outflow of information and transparency. This attitude ultimately invites bad press and brickbats instead of the bouquets that the forces truly deserve. This is the era of information and not of confidentiality, period.

The other day, I was asked by an officer if we could disseminate copies of the Regulations of the Army (DSR) to RTI applicants and whether it was not a confidential document. Some applicant had desired a copy of the para dealing with retirement ages of officers. Damn I thought to myself. The entire DSR has been uploaded on the net on the official army website, it’s a public document to the hilt determining service conditions of our personnel then what the hell was confidential about it ?. Record Offices have been refusing medical board documents based on some dim-witted diktat issued by someone sitting in the office of DGAFMS which says that medical board documents should not be supplied under the RTI Act unless directed by the CIC. Michel de Montaigne had once said ‘he who establishes his argument by noise and command shows that his reason is weak’. Is this a bloody joke ?, the RTI Act is an Act of the Parliament, Medical Board documents are documents concerning one’s own medical condition, how in the world can they be held back ?. And why do you want people to approach the CIC and cause loss to own exchequer and burden on own legal machinery when you damn well know that the CIC has in the past held that such documents have to be supplied ?. In fact I personally once saw a letter received from a Regimental Records Office stating that a clarification had been sought (a year back) from the DGAFMS on the issue and the medical documents would only be disseminated once a reply is received. Fine, so now the M-Block has more authority than an Act of Parliament & the CIC, and that Record Officer would wait for years for a clarification in utter disregard of law rather than implement RTI requests within 30 days as provided under the Act. This veil of secrecy should be shunned. The more we hide, the more people would think there is something shady or devious ultimately bringing disrepute to our great organisation due to our own individual actions and non-application of mind. Only those documents can be held back which are directly hit by the prohibitions mentioned in Section 8 of the RTI Act.

Why the above thought came to my mind was this. One mother whose son had died in an operational area (was declared a suicide) had sought documents related to the Court of Inquiry and post-mortem of her son’s death. The reply provided to her was very interesting – that the RTI Act is not applicable to J&K and that not being under the Army Act she was not entitled to any CoI proceedings. Pray tell us, the Act through a decision of the CIC has been made applicable to central govt servants even in missions outside India and here we are talking of our very own India. Perhaps the officer shooting off that reply forgot to browse the Indian Army’s official website which lists out PIOs and RTI Appellate authorities for the Northern Command, all based in J&K. Perhaps his insensitivity of human life took the better of him, otherwise who would refuse a mother the documents of her son’s death or his post-mortem and to analyse this situation in the light of the fact that the deceased was a Shaurya Chakra awardee and that the officer’s father had also died after hearing about his death, makes me want to hang my own head in shame. What a monumental goof up for our organisation by some of our own. If everything is right, then why hide ?. Individual actions like these bring disrepute to the defence services. Visitors on this blog have oft talked of accountability and transparency in bureaucracy, I would say let’s start with ourselves first and reflect it in our own little ways. Things should never come to such a pass. By the way, the CIC has now held that Court of Inquiry proceedings are under the purview of the RTI Act and all central govt organisations in J&K are under the RTI Act. Of course we can always hold back information from a CoI which may be a threat to national security.

Cloak of secrecy never works, after all, as Benjamin Franklin said, 'Three may keep a secret only if two of them are dead'.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Update to relax some nerves

Regular readers would bear with me that there are loads of queries on certain pending issues especially ones related to pay and pension of Lt Cols. This much time is usually taken during deliberations on important issues like the instant one. Please disregard rumours and conspiracy theories, our pay cells and elements in the MoD are working overtime for the serving and retired community, please do not read too much into this delay. That said, this is how it is :

Issuance of SAI for Lt Cols : May take about a week or two. Deliberations are continuing at the govt level regarding the lower stage of the start of scale. Should logically start at Rs 38,530 at least.

Pension notification for Lt Cols : Will happen only once the scales of serving Lt Cols are notified. Is bound to take some time because this is to be done by a different department (The Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare) which is not interlinked with the establishment dealing with serving officers.

The status of Time Scale Ranks : Till now, after the implementation of 6th CPC recommendations, Time Scale and Selection Grade Ranks of the Regular Army are at the same footing as far as pay and pension are concerned. Hopefully the same shall continue.

Issues regarding status vis-à-vis civilians : Bound to take some time. Will only be determined after recommendations of the proposed High Power Committee.

Lt Cols already on deputation : Officers already on deputation may get to enjoy a one-time dispensation on Pay Band-4 as suggested on this blog earlier.

Future deputation of Lt Cols to mixed organisations : Status quo likely to continue.

Arrears on upgradation to Pay Band-4 : All arrears shall be payable with effect from 01 Jan 2006.

I would urge readers to have patience since they have nothing to lose. All affected personnel are bound to receive arrears for the lost time hence a few days here or there should not matter much. Enjoy the brew and Have faith !

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Rank Confusion

Rank badges have no relation with status.

Rank badges have been used as a justification by certain services to claim equivalence with the Army, but is this warranted? And do these have any relation with status?

A civilian friend asked me yesterday if a Capt and an ASP were equivalent to an Inspector of Central Customs and Excise. Well, his confusion was not unfounded since an Inspector of CCE wears Three Stars on his / her shoulders and that too without a cloth stripe. The funny part is that not only the Army but also officers from the IPS have taken up the issue of rank badge confusion with the govt but to no avail. Some examples :

Inspector of Central Customs and Excise (Non-Gazetted, Grade Pay Rs 4200) wears Three Stars without cloth stripe which is the same as an IPS officer of the Junior Time Scale (Group-A Gazetted, Grade Pay Rs 5400) and a Captain of the Army (Group-A Gazetted/Commissioned, Grade Pay Rs 6100)

Superintendent of Central Customs and Excise (Group-B, Grade Pay Rs 4800) wears the State Emblem (Ashoka) which is the same as an IPS officer of the Senior Time Scale (Group-A Gazetted, Grade Pay Rs 6600) and a Major of the Army (Group-A Gazetted/Commissioned, Grade Pay Rs 6600)

Assistant Commissioner of Central Customs and Excise (Group-A, Grade Pay Rs 5400) wears the State Emblem with One Star which is the same as an IPS officer of the Junior Administrative Grade (Group-A, Grade Pay Rs 7600)

IPS officers of the Junior Administrative Grade (Grade Pay Rs 7600) and of the Senior Time Scale posted as District Police Chief (Grade Pay Rs 6600) wear the State Emblem with One Star which is the same as a Lt Col of the Army (Grade Pay Rs 8000)

2ICs of the CPOs (Grade Pay Rs 7600) wear the State Emblem with One Star which is the same as a Lt Col of the Army (Grade Pay Rs 8000)

Inspectors of Police in Bihar and West Bengal (Group-C, Non-Gazetted) wear One Star without cloth stripe which is also worn by Probationary IPS officers of the Junior Time Scale (Group-A Gazetted, Grade Pay Rs 5400) and erstwhile 2nd Lieuts of the Army

Ticket Checkers of Shatabdi Express wear Three Stripes on their shoulders and thank heavens they haven’t claimed parity with Wing Commanders of the IAF and Commanders of the IN, till now that is :-)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Serving soldiers whose whereabouts are unknown : Let’s follow proper procedure and be kind to their families

When a soldier leaves for his home station but does not reach his destination, what action is taken by most of us ?

When a soldier leaves his leave station but does not reach his unit, what do you do ?

When a soldier suddenly disappears and is nowhere to be found, what action does his unit initiate ?

Most of the times, the above events result in issuance of apprehension rolls, declaration of desertion followed by notional dismissal from service after waiting for the prescribed number of years.

But in such circumstances, declaration of desertion followed by dismissal from service when a person is neither apprehended nor located is not just illegal but also unethical and unwarranted. To substantiate ‘desertion’, a wilful absence of duty and a ‘guilty mind’ is to be established and unless there is any proof to substantiate wilful absence of an individual, such cases should be declared as ‘missing’ or ‘missing presumed dead’ after due diligence and not as ‘deserters’. The stamp of desertion not only results in incorrect forfeiture of service but also denial of family pension to the family of the missing person.

Govt of India came out with very clear guidelines on the subject in the year 1988 (which can be downloaded and viewed by clicking here) in which it was provided that if an individual suddenly disappears from the place of duty or cannot be found or located, a police report should be filed and papers for family pension and other retiral benefits for the family should be processed after the lapse of one year from the date of his disappearance. Very fairly, according to the ibid govt policy, the family of the missing person is to provide indemnity bonds to the govt that in case the person reappears, the entire family pension and other retiral benefits shall be reimbursed to the Govt. Hon’ble Courts have also time and again held that the families of missing personnel (even if declared deserters and dismissed from service) are entitled to pension and other benefits in case the person remains untraced. Further the Pension Regulations for the Army provide that the past services of deserters cannot be forfeited for the purposes of pension till the time such deserters are brought before a Court Martial and convicted for the offence of desertion. Hon’ble Courts have rationally also opined that the requirement of filing a Police Report by the family is also not mandatory if an apprehension roll has already been issued by his unit since that amounts to information to the police. Needless to say, if a person remains missing, then even logically we should not declare him a ‘deserter’ unless his whereabouts are confirmed by the police or other evidence.

In fact, Para 58 of Section 3 of Army Order 1 of 2003 (AO 1/2003) clearly states that such persons can be declared deserters only after conclusive evidence to the effect is obtained.

Hence I would request all serving officers to take care of this very important and rampant issue while dealing with missing personnel in units. It is only when such personnel are declared ‘missing’ (and not ‘deserters’) that the office of PCDA(P) processes claims for pensions. Care should be taken while determining this aspect since it directly affects families who are already facing emotional plight due to the loss of the bread winner and then are deprived of their dues and pension due to this very common oversight on our part. The relevant part of AO 1/2003 and Govt letter on pension for missing personnel must be made known to all especially the clerical staff and there should be a review of all Part II Orders wherein ‘desertion’ has been published but the person concerned has neither been apprehended nor located and the police has also presented an ‘untraceable report’. In the interest of justice, such cases should be converted to ‘missing presumed dead’ even if it involves some extra efforts by way of a fresh CoI. In fact such issues should be handled by officers themselves and not left to the Head Clerk of the military establishment who would just open the Record Office Instructions and go about it in a mechanical manner without applying proper mind.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Oh thank you Mr Gupta !!!

We are indeed grateful !!!
By the way, the Commonwealth way to spell is 'defence' and not 'defense'. Thank You.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Principal Controller of Defence Accounts (Pensions) finally takes on the ruckus being created by banks

The PCDA(P), Allahabad, has finally taken banks to task in respect of pensions of Pre-06 pensioners.

As we all know, there are two methods of calculating pension :

Old Basic Pension X 2.26


50% of Minimum of New Pay Band + Grade Pay + Military Service Pay

Pensioners have an option of selecting the one of the above which is more beneficial. The first option is represented by Annexure-I of MoD Letter dated 11 Nov 08 while the second one is represented by Annexure-II (Annexure-III for PBOR). Banks were however not understanding some rudimentary stipulations of the MoD letter and were simply using Annexure-I for calculation of pensions. The office of PCDA(P) has now issued detailed instructions to all concerned banks to take remedial measures – the same can be viewed and downloaded by clicking here. The PCDA(P) has also pointed out that such actions of banks are affecting the morale of veterans. Detailed instructions on pension consolidation have also been conveyed to the banks. It has also been communicated that Lt Generals who have retired as Army Commanders / Vice-Chiefs are to be granted a higher pension. This was important since most banks are unaware of the difference in status, pay and pension between Lt Generals and those Lt Generals who have retired as Army Commanders / Vice-Chiefs or equivalent. Confusion about Groups of PBOR has also been clarified.

Officers of the rank of Lt Col have sent many emails stating therein that this particular circular is still showing their pensions in accordance with Pay Band-3. I would urge all such officers to relax since the SAI for serving officers has not yet been issued and retirement benefits would only be notified after the necessary promulgation is undertaken for serving Lt Cols. In any case, officers are bound to receive their arrears w.e.f 01 Jan 2006 hence there is nothing to lose. It is just a wait for a few weeks more and that’s about it. There is no conspiracy theory at play as some would like others to believe.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The much in news Border Roads Organisation (BRO / GREF) case : What is it about & what went wrong ?

Everything and nothing !

Before I start, I would like to clarify that I have nothing against the GREF or the MES and hold these organisations in high regard. For those who joined in late, certain sections of the media have carried reports that three flag rank military officers associated with the Border Roads Organisation (BRO / GREF) have been ordered to undergo 15 days’ imprisonment for Contempt of Court by a Single Bench of the Hon’ble Guwahati High Court. The same story is being circulated with impunity by some GREF and MES officers. But what has not been unfortunately highlighted is the fact that the said Single Bench order was immediately STAYED thereafter by a Division Bench of the Hon’ble High Court. Two minutes of fame perhaps for some, but unnecessary vilification of senior military brass and that too without verification of facts. Sad.

What is the basis of this ? I’ll try to explain in uncomplicated terms.

Organisations such as GREF are amenable to the Army Act subject to certain modifications. The disciplinary powers of various military ranks under the Army Act are extended to officers of such organisations under the authority of Section 4 of the Army Act. Notifications for the purpose of Section 4 are issued for all such forces like GREF, Assam Rifles, Civil GT Companies etc in which disciplinary powers of their own ranks are defined as against disciplinary powers of military ranks. This exercise is done as per administrative convenience and not qua status, protocol or equivalence. In February 2007, a similar notification under Section 4 of the Army Act, which was in fact restricted to the sole purpose of defining disciplinary powers, was issued by the Secretary of Border Roads Development Board (BRDB) in which a Superintending Engineer (Functional Scale) / SE (FS) of the GREF was shown equal to a full Colonel of the Army as far as disciplinary powers were concerned. Now this Section 4 notification was used by GREF officers to claim that SE was now equal to a full Colonel, which is just one side of the story. A writ petition was filed before the Hon’ble Guwahati High Court by an SE of GREF and the Hon’ble Court on the basis of the material before it allowed the writ petition on the foundation of a statement by the Border Roads Development Board (BRDB) made before the Court, and ordered the placing of the petitioner SE on a post equivalent to a full Colonel. The contempt petition in news was a result of non-compliance of the orders in the ibid writ petition. However, what may not have been highlighted by the BRDB (on which incidentally the MoD has no direct control) before the Hon’ble Court is the fact that such notifications for disciplinary powers are never undertaken for defining status or tenability. Some examples in the same vein would be :

As per Schedule ‘C’ of MoD notification vide SRO 329 dated 23 Sept 1960 as amended by SRO 364 dated 29 Nov 1973, Director General of Border Roads has been equated with a GOC-in-C for disciplinary purposes. Now would this mean that DGBR can claim equivalence with an Army Commander ??

A Senior Personal Assistant and an Asst Administrative Officer (Group-B/Class-II) has been equated with a Lieutenant (Group-A/Class-I) of the Army, would it mean that such officers can start claiming equivalence with a Lieut ??

As per MoD notification vide SRO 212 dated 30 July 1987, all Govt servants with a basic pay of more than Rs 2600 (4th CPC rates) irrespective of pay scale, rank and status have been equated with Group-A / Commissioned Officers, now would this give them an excuse to claim parity with Group-A / Class-I gazetted officers ??

The answer to all of the above would be in the negative.

That is why, immediately after the Hon’ble Court pronounced its verdict on the basis of the statement of the BRDB, a review or Letter Patents Appeal (LPA) should have been filed by the BRO authorities, which unfortunately, perhaps for reasons elucidated in the succeeding paragraphs, did not happen.

But the point to be noted here is that a ring-side analysis of the situation would reveal that the decision of the Hon’ble High Court was passed in personam and not in ‘rem’. Meaning thereby that only the person who filed the case before the Hon’ble Court could claim relief and such relief of the Hon’ble Court would not be made universally applicable to the organisation.

Coming back to the Contempt case which has already been stayed by a Hon’ble Division Bench of the Guwahati High Court. The Hon’ble Court has rightly observed in the Contempt directions that though modalities of such equivalence were not laid down by the Court but the authorities were bound by their statements and that neither a review was preferred nor an appeal was filed against the decision of the Hon’ble High Court (non filing of an appeal or a review is a glaring lacuna on the part of our legal advisors – perhaps because the officer in charge of the legal wing happens to be a GREF officer !). There is hence an immediate need also to file an appeal or a review with an application for condonation of delay in the main case so that the correct facts can be placed on record and the Hon’ble Court can be apprised of the situation in the actual rational perspective. The MoD and other powers that be should also be informed that the BRDB or for that matter the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (under which GREF functions) may be apprised that they cannot issue any such directions which de facto affect the status, command and control of the military set-up. To put it brusquely, the BRDB has no jurisdiction or brief to meddle in the military hierarchy and any decision taken or submission made in a Court of Law by the Board which directly or indirectly affects military ranks has to be ethically made in consultation with the MoD and the military and not in a one-sided manner. Circumvention of the status of Presidential military ranks by way of a piece of paper issued by an authority not directly dealing with the military should in no way be considered acceptable or appropriate.

Things had slipped out of control in this case, but I’m positive that the situation would be reined and damn well not repeated.

"You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try – Beverley Sills"

Saturday, February 7, 2009

PB-3 to that miniscule minority of Lt Cols on deputation : I think we need to re-think that one !

As we all know by now, Lt Cols on deputation to certain organisations such as NHAI, IRCON, Pawan Hans etc would remain in PB-3 till the time they revert back to military duty. Though only about 30 – 35 officers are expected to be affected by this stipulation, still I personally feel they should be granted PB-4 if they are on a military system of pay, due to the following reasons :

(a) The rules in this regard are very clear as far as civil officers of the All India Services are concerned. Any officer proceeding on a post with a lower status remains in his / her own Pay Band and only the Grade Pay is reduced. On that analogy, PB-4 cannot and should not be withheld from such officers and the maximum that can be done is that they can be granted a Grade Pay equivalent to the deputation post that they are holding. The rules on the civil side become clear by perusing Para 9 (i) of this letter dated 29 Sept 2008.

(b) Of course these officers could not have predicted this future PB-4 stipulation when they were proceeding on deputation to these organisations. Hence as a one time dispensation, the officers currently on deputation should be granted PB-4 and the said stipulation may only be imposed on future deputationists after making them fully aware of the pitfalls. Moreover, the last pay drawn and the pay in parent organisation of deputationists is protected as per pre-existing policy.

(c) The modalities should be kept short, simple and uncomplicated. Simply put, it should be placed in black & white that officers who out of their own volition opt to proceed on deputation to lower posts should be granted PB-4 with a lower GP as is done in case of civil officers. Deputation to posts with the Industrial DA (IDA) pattern of payment or with scales different than the Central DA (CDA) pattern are as it is not affected by PB-3/PB-4 stipulation.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Please sensitise the environment : No Income Tax on the entire pension / arrears of gallantry awardees, their families & disability pensioners

Flash : For the first time in history, the Territorial Army (TA) marching contingent has been adjudged the best marching contingent this Republic Day. As a concept, the Territorial Army is an organisation of volunteers who serve in a military environment for a few days each year during their spare time so that in case of an emergency they can volunteer to bear arms for the nation.

Though I’ve time and again harped on this here on the blog, if you have friends or family who are gallantry awardees or disability pensioners, please do tell them to inform their banks that Income Tax is not chargeable on their pensions. Also the entire pension arrears received after implementation of the 6th CPC are exempted from Income Tax for disability pensioners and gallantry awardees / family pensioners of gallantry awardees. It seems that banks are not in the knowledge of such exemption and are blatantly deducting IT at source even in cases of disability pensioners and gallantry awardees. Besides educating the affected pensioners, we must also sensitise the banks of these very important exemptions.

Income Tax exemption on complete pension of disability pensioners

The entire pension, that is, service element (service pension) and disability element of disability pensioners is exempted from the purview of Income Tax. Disability Pension comprises of two elements, service element that is granted in terms of the length of service (subject to a minimum amount in cases where service rendered is less than pensionable service), and disability element which is granted in terms of the percentage of disability. There is no minimum qualifying service prescribed for service element or disability element, hence even if a person has a single day of service, he or she is entitled to disability pension. For individuals who have completed their minimum qualifying service for pension, their service pension becomes the service element for purposes of disability pension. Both elements are exempted from Income Tax and so are the arrears of both elements. The same has been clarified by the Ministry of Finance, Department of Revenue vide Instruction No 2/2001 dated 02 July 2001 and Instruction No 136 dated 14 January 1970, both of which can be viewed and downloaded by clicking here.

Income Tax exemption on complete pension of gallantry awardees

With effect from Assessment Year 2000-2001, the govt through the Finance Act, 1999, had introduced complete IT exemption on the pension and family pension of gallantry awardees. This was brought into force by way of introduction of Section 10 (18) of the Income Tax Act. The complete pension of such awardees (and not just the gallantry element) is exempted from IT. Following was the press release from Mr Yashwant Sinha, the then Finance Minister when this was introduced in the union budged (1999-2000) :

“To recognise the services rendered by the members of defence forces who have been awarded the Param Vir Chakra, the Maha Vir Chakra and the Vir Chakra the pension and the family pension of the gallantry award winners will be exempted from income tax. Similar exemption would also be available to other gallantry award winners, to be notified by the Central Government”

Accordingly, apart from the Chakra Series, the govt notified several other awards which are under the purview of IT exemption. The complete notification and list of such awards can be viewed and downloaded by clicking here.

Section 10 (18) of the Income Tax Act is reproduced below :

Section 10

In computing the total income of a previous year of any person, any income falling within any of the following clauses shall not be included :

10 (18) : Any income by way of - (i) Pension received by an individual who has been in the service of the Central or State Government and has been awarded "Param Vir Chakra" or "Maha Vir Chakra" or "Vir Chakra" or such other gallantry award as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify in this behalf;

(ii) Family pension received by any member of the family of an individual referred to in sub-clause (i)

I would request all readers to ensure dissemination to affected individuals and their families. If tax has already been paid or deducted then a refund should be applied for.

Monday, February 2, 2009

(Update : PB-4 orders issued) At last, some more uplifting news for military status

Uplifting News # 1

Pay Band-4 orders for Lt Colonels have been issued. All Lt Cols are now placed in Pay Band-4. Only those officers who are on depuation to organisations such as NHAI, IRCON, Pawan Hans, State Govts etc would not be placed in PB-4 till they revert back to the defence services. Hence, only about 30 Lt Cols in total are expected to be kept outside the purview of PB-4. Orders on PB-4 dated 30 Jan 2009 issued by the MoD to this effect can be viewed by clicking here.

Uplifting News # 2

Again as regular readers would know that after the 6th CPC, certain banks had changed the QR for the post of Chief Security Officer from Colonel / DIG to Brigadier / DIG. Now comes some heartening news from SBI. The SBI has advertised posts for its apex security post and the QR is that the officer should either be a Brigadier from the Army or an Inspector General (IG) of Police from the IPS. The advertisement can be viewed and downloaded here.

Uplifting News # 3

The Ministry of Defence has advertised the post of AGM in the Canteen Services Department which would be held either by an STS officer (erstwhile 10000-15200 scale, now PB-3 with GP 6600) from the civil side or a Captain from the Military side.

Remember what the cabinet approved : Grade Pay shall matter for status only within the cadre and not outside it. Well, there you have it :-) Somebody IS listening