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Friday, December 31, 2010

OPed in 'The Tribune' : 31 December 2010


Major Navdeep Singh

“All’s fair in love and war” was the answer I got from a responsible officer of the Ministry of Defence when I pointed out that his Ministry had recently cited an outdated Naval Pension Regulation before the Supreme Court to get a case decided in its favour. Is it a war that we are waging against our veterans? I cringe at the very thought.

The problem runs deep. While officers from the uniformed services and the IAS come and go, no offence meant but those others permanently ensconced in the Defence Ministry and the Armed Forces Headquarters, on whom we tend to over-rely, rule the roost. There is a feeling amongst key intermediary appointments that defence personnel with their subsidised liquor and free ration are already a pampered lot and that they do not deserve more, and hence every single welfare related attempt by the defence services is firewalled with notings on file which become difficult to counter. In all welfare related spheres, the rules and regulations are diametrically opposed to annals of logic. Pensionary provisions are the worst with so many cut-off dates, irrational stipulations and categories within categories that a count becomes difficult to keep. An Honorary Naib Subedar who retired after 1st January 2006 would get the pension of a regular Naib Subedar but a similarly placed person who retired prior to the said date would get the pension of a Havildar. A 100% disabled General who retired in 2006 would get Rs 27,000 as disability pension while an officer of the same rank with the same disability who retired in 2005 would get less than Rs 6000. In a socially retrograde move, a widow who re-married prior to 2006 would lose her right to ordinary family pension but not the one who re-married after 2006. It seems the government is regressively opposed to re-marriage of widows who unfortunately lost their husbands prior to 2006.

The list is never-ending. The bare fact that the defence services have the highest rate of pension related litigation in the country should have led to some revolutionary changes, but nothing positive seems to be happening on ground and the Pension department of the Defence Ministry continues to be operationalised by a single officer who runs the show and thrusts his decisions on millions of pensioners in stark contrast to the democratic and well oiled Department of Pension and Pensioners’ Welfare on the civil side. An overhaul is also required of how our medical boards are functioning and the rules related to grant of disability benefits. The system of determining whether disabilities are ‘attributable to, or aggravated by military service’ also requires a re-look since our guidelines in this regard are more mathematical and less medical. For example, for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to be declared as service-related, we are still governed by the otiose requirement that a person needs to be posted in a field area for a particular length of time, or for instance the requirement that the symptoms should manifest themselves within 3 months of being denied leave in case of the death of a parent when the individual happens to be the only son whereas modern medical science has now proved that the manifestation of such symptoms has no relation with length of operational service and can even happen instantly due to one solitary incident which may happen in a single day and can at times occur as a case of delayed onset even five years after a stressful event. And cannot a person be affected if he is not the ‘only’ son and would not the problem be service-connected if the symptoms arise say after three & a half months rather than the mathematical guideline of 3 months? While psychiatric disorders need to be examined on a case by case basis, we are still stuck in the primitive times with numerical yardsticks. Leave aside medical science, it is understood even by a layman that psychiatric disorders are commonly aggravated by issues such as education of children, property disputes, family problems back home etc when the person is deployed on military duty, peace or field. For cardiovascular disorders, the charter of duties of last 14 days prior to the problem is considered and service-connection is only granted if any stress and strain is observed in the said period. However it is common knowledge that such diseases manifest on account of stress and strain experienced over a long period of time and a 14 days window has no medical relevance whatsoever. Too much mathematical emphasis is laid on field service forgetting that there can be high pressure appointments in peace stations too which can result in far greater stress than field stations.

The malaise can only be addressed if the defence services start posting upcoming and brilliant officers in the service directorates dealing with manpower and personnel services who constructively provide their inputs to the process of decision-making and act as a counter-balance on elements who harbour an erroneous feeling that faujis are already getting more than they deserve. The element of sadism also needs to be curbed. If the feeling at the decision making level remains ‘why should he / she get what I am not getting’, then it would be an exercise in futility to expect anything productive, and in that event, the war against veterans, especially against disabled soldiers, war-wounded, widows and pensioners, shall continue unabated.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Double Family Pension

Queries are constantly received on this blog as to whether families of re-employed defence pensioners are entitled to the benefit of double family pension separately for military service and re-employed service. For example, if a military pensioner joins a pensionable non-military service after his release from the defence services and then dies in harness while in the subsequent service or dies after earning the second pension, then is his family entitled to the benefit of double family pension separately in respect of both the services ?.

The answer is NO.

However there are exceptions to the rule. In case the second pension is ‘contributory’ in nature, then both family pensions are admissible. The Courts have held that both family pensions would also be admissible if the second pension is granted from a non-government fund or from a fund / trust specifically created for the purposes of a pension scheme as is the case with most nationalised banks.

While the above is the current legal position, it would actually be much desirable if families of those personnel, civil or military, who have earned two pensions, are also granted the benefit of two family pensions since if the government employee himself / herself had earned two pensions, then depriving the family of the extension of the same does not stand to logic.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Watch This !

Does not relate to us, but this short film relating to Vietnam War Veterans from the State of Michigan is worth a watch, and introspection.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Supreme Court upholds grant of pension of regular Nb Sub to Honorary Nb Subedars who retired prior to 2006

As was informed on this blog earlier, on basis of the 6th CPC recommendations, the govt had issued a notification granting pension based on the pay-scale of regular Naib Subedar to Havildars granted the Honorary Rank of Naib Subedar. Though the said notification contained only a stipulation that it would be applicable with (financial) effect from 01-01-2006, it nowhere stated that it shall only apply to those who retired after 01-01-2006 and not those who retired prior to this cut-off date. It was still however being negatively interpreted by the concerned authorities that it was to apply only to post-2006 retirees. The Chandigarh Bench of the AFT in Feb 2010 had however struck down this restrictive interpretation of the imaginary cut-off date and had ruled that the benefit shall be available to all Hony Nb Subs irrespective of date of retirement.

The Ministry of Defence had challenged the said orders in the Hon’ble Supreme Court by way of an SLP. The SLP was dismissed last week thereby upholding the orders of the AFT.

Interestingly, the Army HQrs, even before the issuance of the said notification, had pointed out to the MoD, a fact which is on record, that there should be explicit orders for both pre and post-2006 retirees. But the very fair request of the PS Directorate it seems fell on deaf ears thereby leading to unnecessary litigation on the subject.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Service element : civilian employees now at par with defence personnel

Disability pension in the defence services as well as the civil services consists of two elements – service element and disability element. While service element is related to the length of service (proportionately reduced for service below pensionable span) subject to a minimum of Rs 3500 at 6th CPC rates, disability element is linked to the percentage of disability.

With effect from 1973, there was no minimum service requirement for earning a service element in the defence services and a person with even one single day of service was made entitled to service element.

There is no requirement for a minimum qualifying service for earning a service element for civil employees too under the CCS (EOP) Rules, however this was true only for operational disabilities. For non-operational disabilities for diseases such as hypertension etc, there was a minimum requirement of 10 years of service on the civil side to earn a service element though practically this did not matter much since normally civil employees are not prematurely discharged on medical grounds as routinely as is in the case of defence services.

However now the govt has abrogated the minimum requirement of 10 years’ service for earning a service element on the civil side even for non-operational disabilities and placed them at par with defence retirees.

A welcome step indeed for disabled personnel from the civil services.

The letter, which has financial effect from 01-01-2006, can be accessed by clicking here.

Monday, December 13, 2010

RTI Applicants should get ready for lessons in the Queen’s Language

If the Department of Personnel and Training has its way, then RTI Applicants should prepare themselves for a course in concise writing in English. Or they should get a crash course on abbreviations from their military colleagues and friends. Or they should skip the rules of grammar and try to put their thoughts on paper with minimal words. Or they should record their applications and send across a tape to the concerned Public Information Officer.

I say this because of these draft RTI Rules officially floated by the DoPT on which objections have been sought.

The government proposes to limit RTI applications to 250 words and to one subject. While restricting each application to one subject is understood, it is not comprehensible as to what would be achieved by restricting applications to a word limit. It sometimes becomes extremely important to provide a background of the information sought so as to enable the Public Information Officer to efficiently cull out the same, in other cases the description of the documents / files / records sought itself is so longish that it takes a few extra words. A rule like this would further make the entire process subjective and contingent on the whimsical interpretation of various authorities.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Naval Law

The Hon'ble Courts have time and again ruled that natural principles of justice form the golden thread of jurisprudence in any developed society. Courts have also held that natural principles of justice cannot be bye-passed even if there is no explicit provision reflecting the same in the rule book. The Chandigarh Bench of the AFT took a call on the subject in an administrative matter earlier this year in Atul Batra Vs UOI when a sailor ordered to be discharged from service on the basis of 'Services No Longer Required' (SNLR) was ordered to be re-instated since no show-cause notice was issued to him. The plea that the rules did not provide for the issuance of a show-cause notice was rejected by the Tribunal.

The Chennai Bench has now settled another issue in a landmark decision which should go a long way in bringing about a change in the manner in which we view such cases. The decision based on the interpretation of Regulation 30 of the Regulations for the Navy (Part II, Statutory) can be accessed by clicking here.

Interestingly, while the Rules and Regulations in the Army and the Air Force have their inherent checks and balances, the same is lacking at places on the Naval side. But with proactive decisions of various Benches of the AFT, I am sure things would change for the better and perhaps even rules would be promulgated to bring the existing provisions in line with the Constitution of India and well settled principles of law.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Military pay charts from 1949 till 2008 : US Army

I have often received requests for a comparative analysis of Indian Pay Charts vis-à-vis American and British ones.

I found this interesting information on a site wherein one can see all US military pay charts from 1949 to 2008.

The Congressional proposed pay for military members in 2011 can also be accessed by clicking here. It is at variance to the one proposed by the White House.

A direct comparison using the purchase-power index could be interesting !

Saturday, December 4, 2010

To clear your confusion !

Comments on this earlier blog-post reflect that it has not been adequately clarified that the said letter does not deal with the pension difference between senior and junior ranks retiring on different sides of the cut-off date of 01-01-2006. It is hence made clear that the letter referred to in the blog-post of 27 Nov 2010 only deals with pre-2006 retirees.

The pension anomaly characterised by reverse discrimination which was reported on this blog earlier on 19 Oct 2010 already stands removed and it has been now provided that the pension of a post-2006 retiree shall not be lower than a similarly placed pre-2006 retiree getting enhanced pension as a result of the CoS report implementation.

The ibid letter dated 18 August 2010 referred to in the ‘reverse discrimination’ blog-post can be accessed by clicking here.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Off Course !

The year was 1945 when this was written and not for the British but for the Canadian Army.

For us in India, most of it, especially the Officers’ Mess bit, is valid even today.

Makes interesting reading though Regimental life has undergone a major change in the Americas.

And while you are at it, please also have a look at this ‘Advice to the Officers of the British Army’ 1946 ed, first published in 1782, yes you read that right !

Saturday, November 27, 2010

More pension to juniors than seniors : Anomaly redressed

As per the current stipulation in vogue, the minimum guaranteed pension of personnel of some junior ranks was more than pension of senior ranks with the same length of service. This happened since the admissible weightage of junior ranks at places was more than senior ranks.

The said anomaly has been addressed and the MoD has issued a new letter rectifying the problem. Consequently, fresh amended annexures (i.e, Annexures II, IIA and III) replacing the ones appended with the earlier issued MoD letter dated 11 Nov 2008, have been promulgated for officers as well as JCOs and OR.

The said letter, alongwith another letter on medical boards, may be accessed by clicking here. It may however be noted that the family pension of a Lt Col has been mentioned incorrectly in the fresh letter as Rs 8760 per month in this letter whereas it actually is Rs 15420 (30% of minimum of Pay Band-4 + Grade Pay + Military Service Pay). The MoD has by mistake printed the family pension for the rank of Lt Col as per the old (Pay Band-3) scale.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Opportunity in Railways for Veterans

The Railways are holding a special recruitment drive for veteran (Ex-serviceman) vacancies.

Record offices, Sainik boards and other welfare and ESM organisations are requested to keep a tab on such employment notifications which shall soon be available on official railway websites and also in ‘Employment News’. The information may be made known to maximum veterans, especially those who have been released at Sepoys / Lance Naik level.

The appointments shall be made against vacancies for jobs such as Trackmen, Gangmen and Helpers.

The appointments shall be in Pay Band-1 and the veterans shall be entitled to draw their full pension and DA in addition to the pay from the railways.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Treatment of NPA for pre-06 retired medical officers

Retired officers who were drawing Non-Practicing Allowance (NPA) have been complaining that the NPA element is not being included for calculation of minimum pension for pre-2006 pensioners. Apparently, many representations are also being preferred to the govt on the same subject. It is true that the govt has not added the NPA element into pension but the same is in line with the decision of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Col BJ Akkara Vs UOI case.

The Govt has already clarified the said issue and the Ministry of Defence has also issued a separate letter on the subject dated 16-03-2010.

The said letter alongwith a clarification of the Department of Pensions and Pensioners’ Welfare, both of which also form a part of a PCDA(P) circular, can be accessed by clicking here.

Friday, November 19, 2010

CSD entitlement Bands amended again, anomaly removed

There were voices heard on the change of CSD entitlements for various ranks.

The QMG’s branch has now issued an amendment to the entitlement letter dated 07-07-2010. The new entitlement bands are as follows :

OR Band : Sepoy, Naik and Havildar

JCOs Band : Hony Nb Sub, Nb Sub, Sub and Sub Maj

Officers’ Band-1 : Hony Lt, Hony Capt, Lieut to Colonel

Officers’ Band-2 : Brig and Maj Gen

Officers’ Band-3 : Lt Gen

Monday, November 15, 2010

Immediate Separate Redressal Commission for Armed Forces : Supreme Court (Updated)

The Hon'ble Supreme Court today ordered the immediate constitution of a separate commission to examine the pay / pension anomalies and other grievances of the defence services.

The functioning of the commission would be directly monitored by the Supreme Court. The Commission would comprise of Justice Kuldip Singh, Retired SC Judge as the Chairperson and would have as its members Justice SS Sodhi, General VP Malik, Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi and one person to be nominated by the Government of India.

The Commission would independently look into the grievances of members of the defence services and the Government would have no say in the same.

The Government of India, in its affidavit, had only consented to refer the rank pay issue to the proposed Commission and did not agree to any other term of reference. The Court disregarded the affidavit alongwith the stand of the Government and also ruled that the rank pay issue would NOT be referred to the Commission since the orders had already been passed by the Supreme Court. The Court also refused to recall or modify its earlier orders on the rank pay issue and instead referred the review application preferred by the UoI to the Chief Justice for directions that it be placed before some other Bench.

A historic step indeed for the Armed Forces of India.

The salient features for the said Commission, as laid down by the Supreme Court in its order, are as follows :

(1) The Commission shall be called ‘Armed Forces Greivances Redressal Commission’

(2) The Commission shall look into all grievances forwarded to them in writing or email by serving and retired personnel.

(3) Commission shall frame schemes for rehabilitation of soldiers who are discharged at young ages.

(4) The term of the first Commission shall be two years, renewable at the option of the central govt.

(5) The Commission shall be based at CHANDIGARH. Central Govt to provide adequate infrastructure for the same.

(6) Last drawn pay and allowances of the members to be protected.

(7) The Commission shall also recommend change of rules if in its opinion the same are defective or inadequate.

(8) All civil and military authorities to extend full co-operation to the Commission.

The complete order of the SC can be accessed by clicking here.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

DACP : The final frontier

Had reserved my comments till now on Dynamic Assured Career Progression (DACP) Scheme.

As we all know, the DACP with a time bound progression till Grade Pay of Rs 10,000 @ 20 years of service was recommended by the 6th CPC for all doctors under the Central Govt (which includes the AMC & ADC) and the same was also duly notified by the Government of India. The DACP was accordingly implemented for all doctors under the Central Govt including civilian doctors serving under the DGAFMS who now at places are drawing more pay (and better connected facilities) than their AMC bosses on whom the said scheme has not been implemented till date. Even the MHA had, in the past, also vacillated on the subject while implementing the scheme for combatised doctors of the Central Police Organisations but the issue was sorted out when the Ministry of Finance asked the MHA to implement it in letter and spirit for all doctors including the ones serving in uniform.

Contrary to popular perception, the proposal for DACP was accepted in principle by the MoD which was in favour of implementing the same despite reservations expressed by some quarters within the services on the issue of status vis-à-vis other arms and services. Those reservations were also addressed on file when it was resolved that the scheme would be implemented after delinking it from status and rank and would hence involve only financial gain. It was also expressed on file that the AMC needed to be in step and at par with such beneficial schemes already implemented for other central govt services in order to attract and retain talent. In the ultimate analysis, everybody, including the Services HQrs and the DGAFMS were on the same page. However, the MoD still thought it prudent to refer the proposal to the PPOC in its meeting on 22 May 2009. The PPOC, as we well know, is manned by uniformed officers and not by civilians. The issue was deliberated by the PPOC but the said committee was of the opinion that all anomalies, including those of the other services, needed to be addressed at one go by the MoD and hence this issue should also be tagged with other areas of dispute. This, though I have full regard for the PPOC, in my humble opinion, was a short-sighted step since we need to take things as they come. To say that ‘we will not take this benefit which is being offered on a platter by the govt till the time other issues are addressed’ was not a well rounded idea. Anyway, the proposal was pended with the following remarks on 22-05-2009 :

“Status quo be maintained on the implementation of DACP for medical officers in the Armed Forces. Issue of status be included in disputes / anomalies being forwarded to MoD”

Why I say it was not a good idea to postpone the implementation is that DACP was not even an area of dispute and it did not involve status issues since it had been resolved that the financial benefit would be granted without any link to rank, status or hierarchy. Thereafter again comments were sought from all concerned wherein it was again highlighted that the rank structure would not be altered. It was also put on file that the financial implication was also negligible (about Rs 7 lacs for the entire AMC/ADC) since AMC officers reach the highest permissible pay (for all doctors) of Rs 85000 per month in about 23 years of service anyway. Hence in effect the direct implication of the DACP is only for officers with 20 to 23 years of service. It was very kindly agreed by the MoD that any of the following two options may be exercised :

A. Approve the proposal of the DGAFMS for extension of DACP without effect on rank or promotion (unless due in normal course)


B. Ask the PPOC to reconsider the proposal.

The Joint Secretary (O/N) in the MoD has however opted for Option B and has referred it back to the PPOC on 03-09-2010 for reconsideration.

While it is hoped that the PPOC shall reconsider the proposal positively, the following points should be kept in mind before processing the same since it seems that the true picture is not being articulated in an objective manner before the competent body :

(1) It must be borne in mind by the PPOC that the Govt has already notified the DACP for all doctors under the Central Govt which by all logic includes our very own AMC and ADC.

(2) The DACP has already been implemented for civilian doctors serving under the MoD / DGAFMS which has resulted in civilian juniors drawing much more pay and linked benefits than their AMC superiors at places. The DACP has also already been implemented in combatised uniformed medical cadres of the Home Ministry by delinking it from status, pay and rank badges.

(3) There is no link of the DACP with other status issues involving the services since it has already been resolved on file and decided by the MoD that DACP would not affect status / promotions / hierarchy. Hence to tag the DACP with other anomalies would be a little unfair and self-defeating since there is no involvement of any anomaly in DACP which already stands implemented in other services.

(4) The thought process which has been placed before senior officers that military medicos are receiving MSP and other allowances which civilians are not getting is totally misplaced. MSP has been granted across the board to cater for the vagaries of military life and early retirement and has no link whatsoever with the DACP. Moreover, all doctors in other services have been made entitled to DACP including those who are being paid risk related and special allowances on the civilian side. And when the Govt and the MoD are ready to grant DACP to us, why should we ourselves raise the bogey of MSP and special allowances, this would be the worst form of self-inflicted injury. Even the notion that grant of DACP would upset the hierarchy is misplaced since it has already been agreed upon that it would not affect status.

(5) We need to attract talent in the AMC and we need to do it fast. Between 2005 and 2008, less than half of the candidates called for an interview finally reported and only between 32% to 44% of those selected finally joined, which speaks volumes of the AMC as a career option. We need to act on this and not place our very own people at a disadvantage as compared to other doctors under the central govt.

(6) We need talent, staff, numbers and re-organisation and all this is not possible without the right and the correct talent. As has also been brought out on file, our approved establishment is woefully inadequate. To take some examples, the Medical Officer per bed ratio in Batra Hospital is 1 per 3 beds, in AIIMS it is 1 per 15 beds, in Walter Reed Hospital (US Armed Forces) it is 2 per 1 bed and in our AFMS it is 1 per 50 beds. The Specialist per bed ratio in Batra is 1 per 5 beds, in AIIMS it is 1 per 18 beds, in Walter Reed it is 2.6 per 1 bed and in our AFMS it is 1 per 33 beds.

My request to our own people, including those I have worked with while dealing with status and pay issues of the services, would be that let us not try to throw spanners in the works and let the MoD smoothly implement DACP for our AFMS doctors as has already been approved in principle and which now again awaits a ceremonial nod from the PPOC. We must learn from experience. Our approach should not be 'why should they get it when we (non-medicos) are not getting it', rather it should be 'why should they not get it when others have already got it'.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Treatment of MSP on re-employment

A fresh clarification has been issued on the treatment of Military Service Pay on re-employment.

The same can be accessed by clicking here.

The operative part is as follows :

“It has been decided in consultation with the Department of Expenditure, that since the element of MSP is not reckoned in the pay fixation on re-employment, it need not be reduced from the pension either. Hence, In respect of all those Defence officers/personnel, whose pension contains an element of MSP, that need not be deducted from the pay fixed on re-employment.”

Monday, November 8, 2010

Q & A (13)

Readers may send in their Questions through email for a Q & A session with ‘Q&A’ as the subject. For rules, please read this post.

My late friend’s wife is getting under Rs 10,000 as family pension. My friend was a Lt Col. Is she getting the correct pension ? (Brig Gurjit Singh)

No. Your friend’s wife should be getting Rs 15420 as basic pension w.e.f 01-01-2006 + DA applicable from time to time. The figure arrived at is 30% of minimum of pay of a Lt Col + MSP + Grade Pay.

I was injured in 1948 Ops but am being paid normal disability pension and not war injury pension. The PCDA(P) says that war injury pension was introduced only after the 1971 war but I personally know of a soldier who is getting war injury pension for a disability sustained in 1962 war. What is the correct position ? (Ex-Hav Teja Singh)

The PCDA(P) is wrong. War injury pension (earlier known as war injury pay) was introduced by the Govt of India in 1972 for future as well as past operations. The concept is applicable to all operations after 15 August 1947. You may take up the case through your Records Office.

Is the family of a missing person (declared deserter) who has not been apprehended, entitled to family pension ? (ABC)

Please see this earlier post for answer to the above.

What is invalid pension and how is it different from disability pension ? (Ram Murthy)

Invalid pension is granted for disabilities which are neither attributable to, nor aggravated by service. There is a minimum service requirement of 10 years to earn an Invalid pension. Disability pension, on the other hand, is granted when the disability is attributable to, or aggravated by service in accordance with rules. There is no minimum service requirement to earn a disability pension and even recruits are entitled to the same.

Is an ex- Sergeant of the Air Force who gets re-employed in a govt organisation entitled to DA on his pension ? (XYZ)

All personnel below Commissioned Officer level on the defence side and below Group A level on the civil side are entitled to DA on pension in case they are re-employed in an organisation at the bottom of the scale without taking the benefit of increments for their military service. This was made applicable w.e.f 18-07-1997.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Ensuing modified parity in casualty pensionary awards : Defence employees and families

As conveyed earlier on this blog, the letter related to modified parity in disability / extra-ordinary pension of pre and post-2006 civil employees has already been issued by the Department of Pensions and Pensioners’ Welfare. The Ministry of Defence is also working on the draft government letter (DGL) to be issued in the same respect for pre-2006 defence pensioners and defence family pensioners.

The normal disability element of pension (which is paid in addition to the service element / pension) would be 30% of the applicable minimum of pay in the pay band + Grade Pay + MSP for 100% disability, proportionately reduced for lower percentage of disability.

Special family pension shall be 60% of minimum of pay in the pay band + Grade Pay + MSP in accordance with the rank and liberalised family pension shall not be less than minimum of pay in the pay band + Grade Pay + MSP.

It is again clarified that the letter dated 30-09-2010 is not applicable to defence pensioners for whom separate orders shall be issued.

Monday, November 1, 2010

United States Supreme Court refuses to direct cut in bureaucratic delays for processing claims of veterans

A petition against a "byzantine system of procedural hurdles" in processing of claims of American military veterans was not entertained by the Supreme Court of the US primarily on the grounds of locus standi.

The Vietnam Veterans of America and the Veterans of Modern Warfare had filed a petition earlier in a lower Court seeking directions to the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) to cut down on its procedural delays and red-tapism in dealing with the claims of military veterans. It was alleged that disability and medical care claims were at times not even considered for a period of more than a year and the appealing procedure sometimes took upto 5 years. The veteran groups had sought an initial time frame of 90 days and a total appeal time of 180 days from the VA. The petition was ultimately dismissed for want of locus on the part of the Veteran groups.

A news-report on the issue can be accessed by clicking here. The comments on the same make interesting reading.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Higher (additional) commuted value for families of those deceased employees who had retired between 01 Jan 2006 and 02 Sept 2008 before opting

The Department of Pensions and Pensioners’ Welfare, in another pro-pensioner move, has ordained that families of those employees who retired between 01-01-2006 and 02-09-2008 and who died before exercising the option of claiming higher capitalised value, would remain eligible for the additional commuted amount.

The entire OM can be accessed by clicking here. The operative part is reproduced below :

"As per the provisions contained in para 9.3 of this Department’s OM No. 38/37/08-P&PW(A) dated 2nd September, 2008, the revised table of commutation value for pension will be used for all commutations of pension which become absolute after the date of issue of this OM. In the case of those pensioners, in whose case commutation of pension became absolute on or after 1.1.2006 but before the issue of this OM, the pre-revised Table of Commutation value for pension will be used for payment of commutation of pension based on pre revised pay/pension. Such pensioners shall have an option to commute the amount of pension that has become additionally commutable on account of retrospective revision of pay/pension on implementation of the recommendations of the Sixth Central Pay Commission. On exercising such an option by the pensioner, the revised Table of Commutation Value for pension will be used for the commutation of the additional amount of pension that has become commutable on account of retrospective revision of pay/pension. In all cases where the date of retirement/commutation of pension is on or after 2.9.2008, the revised Table of Commutation Value for pension will be used for commutation of entire pension.

References have been received from various Departments seeking clarification from this Department whether the commutation value of additional pension in respect of such employees who had retired during the period between 1.1.2006 and 2.9.2008 and died before exercising option is payable to the eligible member of family or not. The issue has been examined in consultation with Ministry of Finance, Department of Expenditure who has observed that the Pay Commission’s intention was that the pensioner should exercise a conscious choice in view of the fact that the commutation table has changed w.e.f. 1.1.2006. As such, in these cases, the Rule 10 of CCS (Commutation of Pension) Rules, 1981 may be followed and difference in commuted value be paid without fresh applications. The intention was not to deny the higher capitalized value on account of revision of pension."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Recognition of Marriage after retirement for pensionary purposes

Some Record Offices have been refusing to recognise marriages solemnised after retirement of defence personnel. This refusal is based on an MoD letter issued on 02-06-1989 in which it had been provided that marriages after retirement would only be considered for family pension purposes if in a particular case it is the first marriage and is solemnised within 5 years from retirement or before attaining the age of 45 years, whichever is earlier.

This position by Records Offices is incorrect and in total contravention of rulings of the Hon’ble Supreme Court as well as Government policy.

The restrictions mentioned in the ibid MoD letter dated 02-06-1989 were withdrawn and cancelled vide another letter issued by the MoD on 05-04-1991 which was based on the decision of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case Bhagwati Vs UOI.

Claimants can claim family pension based on a certificate issued by the Registrar of Marriages or an affidavit sworn before a First Class Magistrate.

Cases of officers are to be processed through AG’s Branch while those of JCOs and Other Ranks are to be initiated through the respective Record Offices.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Some clarifications on new ECHS Rates

I would like to address some myths floating around on the new ECHS contribution rates.

All ECHS members would have to pay the difference between the amount already paid and the new rates.

Totally false. The new contribution rates are only for fresh members and not for existing members.

Civilian pensioners do not have to pay any contribution for becoming members of the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS)

Another factually incorrect input being propagated by vested interests. Civilian members of CGHS are paying exactly the same lifetime contribution.

The hike is too steep.

Think about it this way - It is only about a month’s pay for free medical care for you and your dependants for the rest of your life. The amount is peanuts in this age and time. Please expect a fresh hike after every pay commission.

The rates should be the same for all ranks and senior ranks should not be made to pay more.

The same rates are applicable in other Central Services who also have a graded payment structure like the defence services. Moreover, please do not forget that even ethically speaking the officer class should pay more because of higher pay and pension rates, and also because better facilities such as private rooms are being provided to officers.

The negative propaganda directed towards the new rates of ECHS is definitely uncalled for in my humble opinion.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Reverse discrimination finally addressed

After the report of the Committee of Secretaries for improvement in pensionary benefits of pre-2006 defence personnel was implemented, a unique form of reverse discrimination came into play – the pension of some categories of pre-2006 personnel was now greater than similarly placed retirees who retired after 01-01-2006.

The issue has now been resolved by the Ministry of Defence and a letter correcting this grave anomaly has already been issued.

The pension of post-2006 retirees shall now not be less than 50% of the notional pay in the post-2006 pay structure corresponding to the maximum of 5th CPC scales including classification allowance. The amount so deduced would be for 33 years’ service and weightage shall be admissible in such calculation as was applicable before the implementation of 6th CPC. The notional maximum of scale would be determined as per tables appended with SAI 1/S/2008 and pension would be calculated by taking into consideration the pay in the pay band, Grade Pay, MSP and X Group pay as well wherever applicable. The pay under Assured Career Progression Scheme (ACP) would be considered for pension purposes wherever a higher scale has been granted under the said scheme. For example, if a Naik has been granted the higher scale of Havildar under ACP, then he shall be paid the pension of a Havildar.

The revision shall be undertaken suo-moto by the concerned agencies.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Rates of ECHS Contribution revised

The Government has revised the rates of one-time ECHS contribution on 29-09-2010 with effect from 01-06-2009.

The new rates for ECHS contribution shall be as follows :-

All ranks upto Havildar & equivalent : Rs 15,000

Naib Subedar : Rs 27,000

Subedar till Major : Rs 39,000

Lt Col and above : Rs 60,000

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

An important judgement on medical examination at the time of recruitment

Tribune News Service, October 11, 2010

The Supreme Court has held that when a specialist civilian hospital has certified an individual to be free from a medical disorder, the Air Force cannot stick to its finding that he is medically unfit and thereby deny him a job opportunity.

Upholding an earlier High Court order, a Division Bench of the apex court, comprising Justice JM Panchal and Justice Gyan Sudha Misra, has dismissed a special leave petition filed by the government against the High Court order.

Observing that the process of medical examination by the Air Force, in this case, was “a cause of serious concern”, the High Court ruled that the findings of the Air Force’s appeal medical board could not be sustained in view of the positive findings of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, especially when the institute had been informed that the petitioner had been rejected from the defence services.

The High Court directed that the Air Force would be obliged to take the petitioner into service and not disqualify him on medical grounds. The Air Force had rejected him for having heart murmur.

The Union of India had contended that the conditions of disease for civilian appointment were different from that of appointment in defence services. The High Court observed that no medical text or journal had been brought to its notice that said that a person might not have a disease if he was looking for a civilian appointment, but that would become a disease when it came to military employment.

“By no stretch of imagination can it be said that for a civilian appointment the heart condition vanishes or is differently defined for a military appointment,” the High Court ruled.

The court had also observed that within the Air Force medical board itself, different diseases and ailments in relation to the petitioner curiously kept coming in and going out. First, there was weight discrepancy and heart murmur. Then weight discrepancy vanished and hydrosil appeared along with murmur and lastly, hydrosil vanished within a day leaving behind systolic murmur.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

More action in the Supreme Court

There was some action in the Hon’ble Supreme Court on the disability pension front in the last few weeks. The details :

Union of India Vs Mukhtiar Singh : The Hon’ble Punjab & Haryana High Court had allowed disability pension to a soldier released in 1979 whose disability ‘Psychosis’ had been assessed as ‘neither attributable to, nor aggravated by service’ by the Release Medical Board. The Union of India had challenged the judgement before the Hon’ble Supreme Court. The Supreme Court dismissed the Special Leave Petition on 27-08-2010 on merits. Incidentally, ‘psychosis’ finds a mention in the Entitlement Rules as a disease which is affected by stress and strain of service but still it is time and again being labelled as ‘unrelated with service’ by our medical boards.

Union of India Vs Ved Prakash : The soldier was invalided out with 7 years of service on account of ‘explosive personality disorder’ and his disability was declared ‘neither attributable to, nor aggravated by service’ and ‘constitutional’ in nature. The Hon’ble Delhi High Court allowed the petition filed by Ved Prakash and directed the release of disability pension. The order of the High Court was challenged by the Union of India before the Hon’ble Supreme Court and the said SLP stands dismissed on merits by the SC on 10-09-2010. Incidentally, when a pin-pointed cause of a disability is not recognised, many-a-times our medical boards label such disabilities as ‘constitutional’. If we go by the rule book however, the Entitlement Rules clearly provide that ‘constitutional disposition’ itself is not a disease and that if no root cause of a disease is identifiable, then the benefit has to go to the soldier. But all I can say is ‘Rules propose, Our Boards dispose’.

Union of India Vs Raj Kumar Dhingra : The retired JCO was discharged on compassionate grounds after duly completing his terms of engagement with hypertension declared as ‘aggravated by service’. When the documents were sent for grant of disability pension, the PCDA(P) overruled the decision of the medical board and declared his disability ‘neither attributable to, nor aggravated by service’. When the JCO filed a writ petition in the Hon’ble Punjab & Haryana High Court, the Union of India changed its stance and stated that his disability pension had been rejected since he was discharged at his own request. During the pendency of the writ petition, the office of DGAMS also called him for another medical board which now again declared his disability as ‘neither attributable to, nor aggravated by service’ thus electing to parrot the line of the PCDA(P) rather than the Release Medical Board. The Hon’ble High Court struck down both reasons of rejection and ordered the grant of disability pension to the JCO with a detailed order discussing all relevant rules. The Union of India strangely challenged the well reasoned judgement in the Supreme Court, perhaps the amount of disability element of pension awarded by the High Court, that is, Rs 570/- per month, was too high for the Union to digest. The SLP stands dismissed on merits on 01-10-2010.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


In these times of CWG fever, here is an article in Open Magazine which I thought I must share with readers of this blog.

Though written in a manner which seems laced with a bit of black humour, it makes good reading.

Let us not however take it as a slight to Indian pride !

Monday, October 4, 2010

OPed in 'The Tribune'

My OPed as it appeared in on the editorial page of 'The Tribune' :

More logic, less rhetoric to strike a better deal

Maj Navdeep Singh

Is atta-dal cheaper for a pensioner who retired in say 1995 than an employee retiring today ? Absolutely not. Then why should an old retiree be paid much lesser pension than an equally placed person retiring today in the same rank and with the same length of service? Legalese apart, this is the question which stares the present system in its face. But then, the logic is equally applicable not only to defence pensioners but to all pensioners irrespective of the service they retired from. And this is where I differ from some veteran organisations which time and again bring in the talk of honour, valour and sacrifice of defence personnel while trivialising the roles of other occupations. OROP, or more precisely ‘Equal pension for the same grade with same length of service’, is definitely an equitable and ideal concept and should be granted, but it should be extended in time to all pensioners irrespective of the service from which they retired. If the defence services deserve it earlier or in a different format than others, it is not because their contribution is more hallowed than civilian employees but because they retire younger, at times 25 years before their civilian counterparts, are at call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and definitely lead a tougher regimented life. Every service or occupation however has a role to perform in sustaining this nation and the thin line between pride and superiority should not be crossed.

The outrage and retort of some members during a recent popular TV talk show, when an economics Professor suggested that there were other professionals too such as firemen who faced occupational risks, again reflected a kind of hollow supremacy which we are unknowingly instilling within the military society and that is taking us further away from the real world. Perhaps, the example of a fireman was not apt, but there are others such as personnel of the Central Police Organisations who face similar risks and probably lead an even tougher life. The only intelligible differentia that can be logically put forth is that defence personnel retire earlier. Of course, fallacious was also the argument of the Professor that defence personnel should be granted higher pay but not greater pension because the nation cannot afford it. Perhaps the Professor did not know that pension, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, is a ‘deferred wage’ and a higher wage therefore has to rationally translate into higher pension. This fight should be won not by comparisons or running down others but by articulating a logical stance that is not easy to defy.

The idea should be to convince the government, the public and the nation as to why pensioners in general and defence pensioners in particular deserve a better deal. Though I do not agree with the conspiracy theory of the bureaucracy being always opposed to what defence personnel deserve, I can say it with conviction that mischievous elements at not-so-high-levels definitely have the ability to deceive the upper echelons of governance with misleading notings on which there is no proper application of mind at the top but only affixing of initials as a mere formality. Or else nobody on earth could justify what has been labelled as ‘modified parity’ or ‘rationalisation of pension structure’. The difference of Rs 1400 in pension between a Captain and a Major as on 31-12-2005 has gone down to Rs 250 on 01-01-2006 after the 6th Pay Commission rather than increasing with the enhancement of scales while the difference of Rs 950 between the pension of a Major and a Time Scale Lieutenant Colonel has gone up to Rs 11,600. As on date, the disability element of pension of a 100% disabled Chief of Army Staff who retired on 31-12-2005 with 40 years of service is Rs 5880 while the disability element of the same officer retiring a day later is Rs 27,000. In fact, a Lieutenant, the lowest commissioned rank, with one day of service released on 01-01-2006 gets a disability element of Rs 8100 which is much more than that of a 100% disabled General, the highest commissioned rank, who retired a day earlier. Probably it has been somehow established on file that an injury sustained on 01-01-2006 is more agonising than the one sustained a day before !

The government may call it anything - modified parity or rationalisation, officialdom may put across a labyrinth of rulings and decisions to defend itself but the net result is that the differentia between pre and post 2006 retirees is something that shakes the conscience. But how do we counter it - by rhetoric and presenting ourselves as ‘holier than thou’ or by logical reasoning?

The writer practises in the Punjab & Haryana High Court

Friday, October 1, 2010

Full modified parity restored to disability / liberalised / extra-ordinary pensioners on the civil side

The orders for modified parity for pre-2006 disability / liberalised / extra-ordinary family pensioners have been issued yesterday on the civil side.

With this, the calculation of all pre-2006 pensioners and family pensioners in receipt of disability / extra-ordinary / liberalised pension shall be based on percentage basis of the new post-2006 scales rather than the old basic pension X 2.26 formula.

To take an example, the normal disability element of pension of a person with 100 % disability irrespective of date of retirement would be calculated on the basis of 30% of the minimum of pay in the new (post-2006) pay band + Grade Pay rather than 30% of old (post-1996) scale X 2.26 as was the case till date. The calculation of disability element varies with the situation in which the disability was sustained. For example, in case of a disability sustained in a war or warlike operation, the disability element of pension (called war-injury element on the defence side) for 100% disability is to be calculated as 100% of the minimum of pay in the new pay band + Grade Pay.

The fresh benefits have been granted with effect from 01-01-2006.

The OM issued by Department of Pensions and Pensioners’ Welfare can be accessed by clicking here. This OM is to be read with the one issued on 03-02-2000 after the 5th CPC.

Since the Department of Pensions and Pensioners’ Welfare is the nodal authority for formulating pension related policies for civil, defence and railway pensioners, the MoD and the Rail Ministry are expected to soon implement this OM with suitable modifications. This would also be in line with the judgement of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in DS Nakara’s case.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Another category added to ex-gratia compensation scheme w.e.f 01 January 2006

Lumpsum ex-gratia payment is admissible to families of defence personnel in the following cases :

Deaths occurring due to accidents in the course of duty : Rs 10 lacs

Deaths in the course of duties attributable to acts of violence by terrorists etc : Rs 10 lacs

Deaths occurring in enemy action in wars, border skirmishes, action against militants / terrorists etc : Rs 15 lacs

Deaths occurring in enemy action, international wars or other engagements specifically notified by the govt : Rs 20 lacs

The Govt of India has now added an additional category to the scheme of ex-gratia payment w.e.f 01 Jan 2006 :

Deaths occurring while on duty in specified high altitude area, inaccessible border posts etc on account on natural disasters and extreme weather conditions : Rs 15 lacs

The above has been added vide GoI MoD Letter No 20(5)/2009/D(Pay/Services) dated 04 June 2010.

It may also be noted that the categories are not in the form of water-tight compartments and are to be interpreted liberally and not literally. The Govt has already explained in detail as to what kind of situations would be covered in these categories and such guidelines are provided in GoI MoD Letter No 20(1)/D/(Pay/Services) dated 22 Sept 1998. The said letter liberally conveys as to how these categories are to be construed for granting benefits to claimants.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Comparative Analysis by KSB of various benefits and concessions to veterans

Veterans are usually at a loss when it comes to a comparison of various benefits and concessions available to them from States and UTs.

This link would throw light on varied aspects of the issue as compiled by the Kendriya Sainik Board.

The hand book on comparative analysis contains information on the census of veterans and widows in States and UTs, re-employment benefits and reservation offered to veterans and also about other exemptions, concessions and forms of financial assistance available.

Veteran organisations are requested to peruse and analyse this data while interacting with the Rajya Sainik Boards on welfare related issues of the defence community.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Toll tax exemption is NOT repeat NOT available to retired personnel

This issue keeps cropping up every year or so.

Some officers are again circulating a letter purportedly issued by the NHAI in which it has been stated that retired defence personnel are entitled to toll exemption.

The above mentioned letter is fake. Please do not embarrass yourself or the service by using it or fighting with toll barrier staff on its basis. This has been clarified by me time and again.

An excerpt of a news report wherein the subject was dealt with by the Supreme Court is also floating around. The said judgement was related to the private vehicles of serving personnel only and had no relevance to retired personnel. The Supreme Court had upheld toll exemption to the private vehicles of serving defence personnel only.

Anyone who may want to know about the issue in greater detail may go through previous posts on the subject by clicking here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

‘Ex-Serviceman’ status to boarded out recruits

This is related to the post on ECHS facilities to recruits.

Many boarded out recruits keep inquiring whether they are to be treated as ‘ex-servicemen’ or not.

The answer is in the positive. While the DoPT definition of ‘ex-serviceman’ clearly includes personnel in receipt of disability pension, the MoD has also clarified vide its OM No 12/I/2005/D dated 01 February 2006 that boarded out recruits in receipt of disability pension shall be treated as ex-servicemen for all practical purposes.

It may be recalled that a recruit released from service due to an attributable / aggravated cause is entitled to disability pension including service element under the provision of Regulation 181 of the Pension Regulations.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

It’s 10% for serving and retired

The increase in Dearness Allowance (DA) is what I’m talking about.

DA stands raised by 10% with effect from 01 July 2010 for serving employees and pensioners of the Central Govt.

The next instalment of DA enhancement after the current one shall also result in an increase in all allowances (including Travelling Allowance) by 25% since the 6th CPC had recommended that allowances shall go up by 25% when DA touches the 50% mark.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pension shall not be less than 50% of minimum of pay within the pay-band corresponding to the pre-revised scale of a retiree : AFT

As most of you would be aware, the 6th CPC had recommended that the revised pension shall not be less than 50% of the sum of the minimum of pay in the pay band + the grade pay (+MSP in case of defence personnel) thereon corresponding to the pre-revised pay scale from which the pensioner had retired. The minimum of pay within the pay band was notified by way of a fitment formula of Old Scale X 1.86 on the basis of which fitment tables were published by the govt. For example, in case of a Major, the pay band applicable was Pay Band-3, that is, Rs 15600 – 39100 and the minimum of pay within the pay band was Rs 12,800 (minimum of old scale) X 1.86 which came to Rs 23,810. Hence the pension fixation could not be less than 50% of Rs 23,810 + Rs 6600 (Grade Pay) + Rs 6000 (MSP), that is, 50% of 36410 = Rs 18,205.

The above formula was accepted by the government through a gazette notification. However, later a clarification was issued in which it was stated that it is not the minimum of pay in the pay band that shall be taken into consideration but the minimum of the pay band itself irrespective of the pre-revised scale of pay. Meaning thereby that the pension of all the three ranks - Lieutenants, Captains and Majors, was to be fixed by taking the minimum of Rs 15600 which happened to be the lowest point of the Pay Band itself and essentially the starting pay of a Lieutenant. This meant that the minimum possible pension of a Major was to be fixed at Rs 14,100 rather than Rs 18,205.

To be fair to the Department of Pensions and Pensioners’ Welfare, they tried their best to reason out with the Department of Expenditure that their (DOE's) interpretation of pension fixation for pre-2006 retirees was not right and that it needed to be corrected and the clarification revised. But despite the fact that the Ministers (MoS) of both the Finance and the Personnel Ministries were in favour of the correction in the right spirit of the 6th CPC recommendations, it was ensured by the lower level babus at the Ministry of Finance that it did not happen. The case was taken up time and again by the DoP&PW but was always rejected by the DoE.

The first correction now comes from the Hon’ble Principal Bench of the AFT which has rightly interpreted the term ‘minimum of pay’ as being the minimum of pay within the pay band and not the minimum of pay band itself. Hopefully the DoE shall see reason and ensure that the dockets of Hon’ble Courts and Tribunals are not burdened with unnecessary litigation on the same point and also see that pre-2006 retirees, both civilian and defence, are ensured equity.

The havoc that the incorrect interpretation had led to can be fathomed by the fact that while the difference between the minimum possible pension of a Captain and a Major was Rs 875 till the 5th CPC, it went down to Rs 250 after the 6th CPC rather than escalating with the increased scales. While on the other hand, the difference of pension between a Major and a Time Scale Lt Col was only Rs 950 till the 5th CPC era and today it has gone up to Rs 11,600 after the 6th CPC. And this my friends had been termed as ‘parity’ by the mandarins at the Finance Ministry !

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Clarifications on MACP

Modified Assured Progression Scheme (MACP) is applicable to central govt civil employees on whom the Non-Functional Financial Upgradation system is not applicable.

Many of the readers of this blog may be having civilian employees serving under them. There had been some points of confusion in the scheme which have now been clarified by the DoPT in a recently issued circular which can be accessed by clicking here.

It would be advisable to circulate this in case serving in a mixed organisation or an establishment with civilian employees.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Once again, the Hon’ble Supreme Court tries to instil some sense

The Supreme Court again gave a piece of its mind to the Govt observing that it was unfortunate that litigation was being forced upon serving and retired personnel of the defence services. The SC also asked the Solicitor General to seek instructions on the suggestion of the Court that there should be a separate Pay Commission for the forces. Though the decision for setting up of a separate pay commission has already been taken by the PMO, strangely it seems that the Solicitor General was not in the knowledge of the same, otherwise this information could have been conveyed to the bench during hearing itself.

The following has been reported by the Press on this :

Slamming the Centre for making army personnel run from pillar to post on their salary disputes, the Supreme Court today directed the government to examine the idea of setting up a separate Pay Commission for both serving and retired personnel of the armed forces.

A Bench of Justices Markandeya Katju and T S Thakur, asked Attorney General G E Vahanvati and Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium to seek instructions from the government as to whether it was open to the idea of a separate pay commission that could be headed by a retired Chief Justice of India or a judge of the Supreme Court.

"The day the soldiers are forced to fight for their salaries, it would be a sad day for the country," the Bench said quoting Chanakya's advise to Emperor Chandragupta Maurya. The apex court said the sane advise of Chanakya was valid even today and it was unfortunate that army personnel are forced to knock the doors of the court for rectifying their salary anomalies.

"Army people are a disciplined lot. They cannot go on agitation like others. They should not be forced to fight for their salaries, it is not good for the country. "It is very unfortunate that today many army people are unhappy. I know thousands of army personnel returning their medals in protest. There was an instance when a senior officer frustrated with the government's approach, even burnt his artificial limb as a protest. Why do you allow such things?" the Bench said.

The apex court made the remarks while dealing with a petition filed by certain serving and retired army officers challenging the reported refusal of the government to accord them enhanced "rank pay" as recommended by the Fifth Pay Commission. Counsel Kailash Chand and Ramesh K Haritash appeared for the army personnel.Though Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium tried to make his submission, the Bench pointed out that in recent years a number of armed forces personnel were moving the courts to get their salary grievances addressed.

"The present Pay Commission for them is headed by bureaucrats. They may not be able to understand their problems. It is a burning issue. Why don't you allow them to let their steam out by appointing a Commission instead of making them move from pillar to post. You can appoint a retired Chief Justice of India or a retired Suprem Court judge," the Bench said.Responding to the suggestion Subramanium said he would seek instructions from the Government on the court's suggestion for a separate Commission within four weeks. Accordingly, the apex court recorded the undertaking and posted the matter for further hearing to October 18.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Good news for women employees of the central govt

Earlier, Child Care Leave was granted only if there was no Earned Leave available with the particular employee.

The central govt has now clarified that this prohibitory stipulation stands withdrawn.

The fresh orders issued yesterday are effective retrospectively from 01-09-2008.

Readers can access the orders by clicking here.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

ECHS facilities to families of recruits

A misconceived thought is floating around that the families of invalided recruits in receipt of disability pension are not entitled to ECHS facilities and that the recruit alone is entitled for the same without any benefit to his dependants.

This is patently incorrect. ECHS covers all ex-servicemen pensioners including disability pensioners, and recruits granted disability pension are very much included in the definition of ‘ex-serviceman’ just the same way a person who is invalided out after attestation is included.

The MoD vide its Office Memorandum dated 01st February 2006 had explicitly clarified and directed that medically boarded out recruits in receipt of disability pension shall be treated as ex-servicemen for all practical purposes.

Once invalided recruits have been included in the official definition of ‘ex-serviceman’, it is not open to any authority to treat them otherwise since that would be discriminatory and would amount to classification within classification. The issue has also been adjudicated judicially by the Principal Bench of the Hon’ble AFT in Anil Kumar Vs UOI decided on 09-03-2010.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Status of Special Family Pension on remarriage for pre-1996 cases : need to educate

Special Family Pension (SFP) is granted to families of deceased personnel when the death is declared either attributable to, or aggravated by military service.

According to earlier provisions, SFP used to be discontinued on re-marriage of a widow, except when the marriage was with the deceased husband’s brother. However this condition was abrogated with effect from 01-01-1996 when it was provided that SFP shall continue on re-marriage irrespective of the person with whom the marriage is solemnised. But the new stipulation was only made applicable to post-1996 cases.

However later, in 2009, the Government of India extended the new provision to pre-1996 cases also and as on date, all widows, irrespective of the date of the death of their husbands, are entitled to receive SFP. This needs to be disseminated to the affected cases since even today many widows who had re-married continue to remain without pension because of the lack of publicity of the new Govt of India letter.

With effect from 1-1-2006, even ordinary family pension is allowed to continue on re-marriage.

Ideally, the MoD / AG’s Branch should publish such issues in all national papers or should direct all record offices to inform affected cases whenever such a letter with retrospective application is issued since there is just no manner otherwise to inform pensioners of newly introduced provisions. It may be a tedious process for the record offices to undertake, but there is no other way.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

MNS cadre restructured

The following is the Cabinet note on the approval accorded yesterday :

The Union Cabinet today approved the proposal of cadre restructuring of Military Nursing Services (MNS). The proposal approved by the Cabinet includes:-

Upgradation of 74 posts of Lt Col (Time Scale) to the rank of Lt. Col (Select) and above. Now, there will be 2 Major Generals, 18 Brigadiers, 58 Colonels and 157 Colonels (Select) in MNS.

Revision of service criteria in the Time Scale promotion in the non Select Rank up to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel (Time Scale) will be as follows : Captain- 3 years (from existing 5 years); Major – 8 years (from existing 12 years) and Lt.Col.(TS) – 16 years (from existing 20 years).

Qualifying service for Lieutenant Colonel (Select) rank by Selection Board revised from the existing 18 years to 14 years.

The decision will reduce stagnation in the various ranks of Military Nursing Service by increasing the number of select appointments. It will also help in retaining competent and qualified nursing officers in service by providing adequate opportunities for career progression.

The last cadre review of Military Nursing Service was carried out in the year 1986. The authorized strength of MNS cadre is 3860 and there are only 161 select rank posts in the MNS cadre. There is a steep pyramidal structure at higher select ranks. An MNS officer is able to pick up the select appointment in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel approximately after 26-28 years of service, when she is around 46-48 years of age. On account of limited number of vacancies, arising out of superannuation, there is large scale supersession of many deserving nursing officers (both specialised and non-specialised) in the Promotion Boards for promotion to higher ranks. Apart from causing de-motivation among these nursing officers, non-selection for promotion also leads to seeking premature retirement by such experienced nursing officers. To retain such qualified and trained nursing offices, it has been considered necessary to improve promotional avenues at all levels so as to mitigate the hardship of nursing officers by increasing the number of posts in select grade appointments within the overall strength of cadre.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

There and Here, Part – II

The subject line refers to an old post on this blog.

Though the following excerpt has been circulating for quite some time now, I think it deserves better attention from all of us. It is a pick from Pages 110 & 111 of ‘Towards Resurgent India’ by Lt Gen M M Lakhera who currently holds a gubernatorial appointment.

I had gone to UK in 1995 as Deputy Leader of the Indian Delegation to take part in the 50th Anniversary celebrations of the victory in Europe during the Second World War. I along with four other Army officers, had just stepped out after attending the inaugural session and were waiting on the roadside for the traffic to ease so as to walk across the road to the vehicle park. Among those with me was Honorary Captain Umrao Singh, a Victoria Cross winner (unfortunately, I have received the sad news of his expiry just two days back). All of a sudden a car moving on the road came to a halt in front of us and a well dressed gentleman stepped out. He approached Umrao Singh and said, “Sir, may I have the privilege of shaking hand with the Victoria Cross?” He shook hands with him. Evidently he had spotted Umrao Singh’s medal from his car and had stopped his car to pay his respect to a winner of the highest gallantry medal of his country.

Then he looked at me and said, “General, you are from Indian Army.” When I replied in affirmative, he gave out his name, saying that he was Micheal Hazelstine . I was absolutely astounded as the recognition dawned on me that he was the Deputy Prime Minister of UK. I was totally overawed by such courtesy shown by a dignitary of the second highest status in the British Government and humbly thanked him for having invited our delegation for the VE Day function. Again his reply was typical of his sagacity, “General, it is we the British, who should be grateful to your country and your Armed Forces, who had helped us win both the first and the second World wars. How can we be ever so ungrateful to forget your country’s great contribution.” Suddenly I became conscious that all the traffic behind his car had come to stand still. I hurried to thank him and politely requested him to move along to relieve the traffic hold-up. He stated, “Sir, how dare I drive off when Victoria Cross has to cross the road.”

Realizing his genuine feeling I and my colleagues quickly crossed the road. Reaching the other side I looked back and saw that Mr Hailstine was still standing waiting for the Victoria Cross to be safely across. Ladies & Gentlemen, that is the type of regards they have for their decorated soldiers. I have always aspired that similar respect could be shown at least to a Param Vir Chakra or Ashok Chakra winner by the leaders and prominent figures in our country.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Another pro-employee step by the DoPT for officials on foreign assignments

Employees on foreign assignments had one very genuine grievance, and that was transferring out of such officers and officials at a time which did not coincide with the academic sessions of their children.

In a proactive and pro-employee move, the Govt of India has decided that from now onwards the postings of such central govt employees shall be planned in a manner so as to ensure the completion of annual examination of their children. Employees shall also be informed and assured that their postings shall coincide with annual examinations. Even curtailment and extension of tenure would be possible so as to keep this very important aspect in view.

The letter issued by the DoPT can be accessed by clicking here.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Same story everywhere...

It has come to light that the US Army may have discharged many soldiers on the basis of a wrong diagnosis leading to denial of disability and pensionary benefits.

Rather than acknowledging soldiers with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), they were stamped as having personality disorders.

This article throws light on this very grim problem being faced by Iraq veterans of the US Army.

It’s the same story here in India for we analyse psychiatric disorders in a manner which is more mathematical than clinical. But more on that later….

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fresh guidelines on the Central Staffing Scheme

The Central Staffing Scheme is one of the oldest systems in place in Central Secretariats of the Union Govt.

Officers from the rank of Under Secretary to Govt of India till Secretary to Govt of India are selected and placed in all Ministries and Departments under the Central Staffing Scheme.

Apart from officers from the All India Services and participating Organised Group A Services, officers from the Central Secretariat Service (CSS) also play a vital role in the Central Staffing Scheme. Central Secretariat Service Officers are initially recruited as Group B Officers at Section Officer level and then rise to Group A level on promotion.

The Govt is in the process of issuing fresh guidelines on the scheme and has floated a draft Office Memorandum seeking comments and suggestions so that the same can be incorporated in the final circular.

Holding of a particular level of appointment does not ipso facto result in eligibility under the Central Staffing Scheme. For example, to be eligible for an appointment as Joint Secretary to Govt of India, an officer needs to be in the Senior Administrative Grade (SAG : PB-4 / GP 10000) but that alone does not make one eligible to be placed as Joint Secretary to Govt of India since there is an elaborate process by way of which officers are empanelled for particular appointments. Officers of the IAS may reach the stage of GP 10000 in 16 or 17 years of service in their own cadres and also become eligible for empanelment after 17 years of service but are not actually and practically empanelled till attaining about 20 to 21 years of service. Moreover not all officers of the SAG are empanelled as Joint Secretaries to the Central Govt.

The draft guidelines can be accessed by clicking here.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Another glass ceiling shattered in the US : Lady Officer to command naval carrier strike group

Rear Admiral Nora Tyson becomes the first lady to command a Carrier Strike Group - Carrier Strike Group II of the UN Navy. She took over command aboard USS H W Bush, the last of the Nimitz class carriers.

Commissioned in 1979, Admiral Tyson is a one star officer. Unlike the Indian Navy, the US Navy has two grades of Rear Admiral, that is, lower half (one star) and upper half (two star).

The Admiral graduated from Naval ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Course), the rough naval equivalent of the Indian Territorial Army, and not from a Regular Academy, and later turned from a reservist into a full time naval officer.

A news-report with some interesting comments on the development can be accessed by clicking here.

A brief history of women in the US Navy is available here.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Clarification by finmin on travel by private airlines

The finance ministry has clarified that entitled officers can travel to J&K by private airlines and that the restriction of Air India LTC-80 fares shall apply to all officers entitled to travel by air, irrespective of airlines.

The relevant clarification can be accessed by clicking here.

This has to be read with the earlier OM on the subject issued by DoPT on 18th June 2010.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

RTI Act shall apply to central govt bodies in J&K : High Court

Regular readers would recall this post on the subject.

For those who may be wondering, all departments of the central govt including the MoD already have thier PIOs under the RTI Act properly in place in the State of J&K.

The bad press for the organisation on the issue is uncalled for since the Army cannot be blamed for the action of a particular officer in deciding to file such a petition in the HC. In fact, I am sure that the MoD and the top brass at the Army HQrs would not have been even apprised of filing of this petition against the well reasoned and common-sense based CIC verdict though a petition in the name of Union of India through the Defence Secretary could not have been legally initiated without explicit consent of the Ministry, more so, since the said petition was against the national policy pertaining to RTI Act which has been adopted by all Ministries.

Monday, August 2, 2010

For all those who did not opt for a beneficial switch-over to 6th CPC scales : help may be on the way !

When the 6th CPC recommendations were implemented, an option was to be exercised by employees regarding the date of switch-over to the new scales. This was supposed to be done within a period of 3 months of the publication of Central Civil Services (Revised Pay) Rules, 2008 and the analogous SAIs in the defence services.

Due to confusion created by introduction of new concepts such as pay bands and grade pay, many central govt employees were in a fix and as a result exercised options which did not ultimately prove to be beneficial. The Central Govt has therefore relaxed the rules and the option which was initially to be provided within a period of 3 months can now be revised and changed till 31st of December, 2010. The CCS (Revised Pay) Rules, 2008, have already been amended to the extent and as per precedent, a mutatis-mutandis approach would have to be followed by the Ministry of Defence for defence employees.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Despatches from the Supreme Court

This month saw the Hon’ble Supreme Court deliberating some very important issues concerning veterans and their families. Here are the despatches :

Citation: Union of India Vs Jagdish Singh
The issue : The veteran was suffering from schizophrenia. The release medical board had declared it to be ‘neither attributable to, nor aggravated by service’ and hence the disability pension claim was rejected. A Division Bench of the Hon’ble J & K High Court, after discussing various rules and regulations, however held that the former soldier was entitled to disability pension since as per rules the same was supposed to have been declared attributable / aggravated by the medical board. The Hon’ble Court also held that in accordance with rules, it is the State which has to rebut the presumption of attributability / aggravation and not the claimant. It was also re-iterated that as per rules, the claimant is not supposed to prove his entitlement.
Status : The Union of India had challenged the well reasoned judgement in the Hon’ble Supreme Court through an SLP. The SLP has been dismissed this month.

Citation : Union of India Vs Kashmiro Devi
The issue : The rules existing at the time of the cause of action in the petition provided that ordinary family pension was to be discontinued to a widow even in case she married the deceased soldier’s brother as per custom in some parts of the country, whereas there was no such bar in case of special family pension. The Hon’ble Delhi High Court, in a landmark judgement, however held that this distinction between the two types of pensions was discriminatory and the pension could not be discontinued even in the case of ordinary family pension.
Status : The Union of India challenged the socially sensitive judgement before the Hon’ble Supreme Court through an SLP. The SLP has been dismissed this month

Citation : Union of India Vs Honorary Captain Kirori Lal
The issue : This retired Hony Capt was being paid the disability element of a Havildar and not of an Hony Capt on the pretext that he was a Havildar at the time of sustaining the disability. The Hon’ble Delhi High Court however held that the disability pension had to be calculated on the basis of the rank last held and not on the basis of the rank at the time of initial incurrence of disability.
Status : The Union of India challenged the well reasoned judgement before the Hon’ble Supreme Court. The SLP was dismissed this month. Curiously, another SLP on the same issue was earlier dismissed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the past but keeping in view the record of ‘fairness’ of pleadings of the Ministry of Defence before Hon’ble Courts, it can be safely concluded that the Hon’ble Supreme Court may not have been informed about the earlier dismissal on the same grounds.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Q & A (12)

Readers may send in their Questions through email for a Q & A session with ‘Q&A’ as the subject. For rules, please read this post.

My sister is in receipt of special family pension on account of the death of her husband. Now unfortunately her unmarried son has also died but she is being refused special family pension by the Records Office on account of the death of her son on the pretext that Regulation 222 (a) of the Pension Regulations allows only one pension to a person. Is this correct ? (Ex-Havladar Raj Nath)

This is absolutely a wrong interpretation of Regulation 222 by the Records. The said Regulation prohibits two family pensions in respect of the same person. Meaning thereby that if an ex-serviceman had two spells of service and was earning two service pensions, then on his death, his widow shall only be entitled to one family pension as per her choice since only one family pension can be claimed for one person. However, there is no bar on grant of two family pensions to the same claimant in respect of two separate casualties and this has been clarified time and again by the govt also. It is learnt that despite this fact having been clarified, some officials at the PCDA(P) and also some Record Offices are creating confusion on the issue which is not in the right spirit.

The special family pension, till the 5th CPC, was based on 60% of emoluments or 60% of minimum of scale for pre-5th CPC retirees. However no such orders have been issued after the 6th CPC and widows have only been grnated revised pension based on the normal revision / fitment formula of "old special pension X 2.26" subject to a minimum of Rs 7000 per month. Why this discrimination after the 6th CPC ? (Mrs Anu Singh)

The Department of Pensions and Pensioners’ Welfare is already working on a revised pension protection formula for such cases and the same would be endorsed to the MoD for implementation once the master OM is issued by the DoP&PW.

I am a doctor in the central govt and have been placed in PB-4 with GP of Rs 10,000 under the Dynamic Assured Progression Scheme (DACP) but my department is refusing to provide me my entitlements in accordance with GP of Rs 10,000. Is there no change in status under DACP ? (Dr Anil Shrivastava)

All facilities and entitlements of a higher GP are supposed to be extended under the DACP. Your department is wrong in not extending the same to you. In fact there was a controversy in the Railways on the grant of Silver Card to doctors granted a higher GP under DACP and it was ordained that the said card has to be issued on promotion to a higher GP under the DACP. On the other hand, upgradation to a higher GP under the Non-Functional Financial Upgradation (NFFU) scheme, or under Modified ACP (MACP) does not result in higher status, facilities or entitlements.

What is the status of Assistant Engineers (AEs) who are Group-B officers ? They claim that they are placed in between Subedar Majors and Lieutenants. (Ex-Sub Maj Jai Narayan)

AEs are actually equivalent to Subedars. Even in pay, they enjoy the same scale and Grade Pay as Subedars. In the MES however, they (AEs) are posted as AGEs too which is a post which can also be held by a Group-A officer of the rank of Assistant Executive Engineer (AEE). Similarly, even JCOs were, till some years back, posted as AGEs.

A course-mate of mine was killed in a fratricide incident a few years ago in an operational area but his death has been classified as a physical casualty. What is the actual rule position ? (ABC)

It is definitely a Battle Casualty in accordance with Para 1(r) of Appendix A of Army Order 01 of 2003. His family should take up a case with the MP directorate for rectification of the error.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Haryana slashes stamp duty for defence personnel by 1 %

The Haryana Govt has slashed stamp duty for serving and retired defence personnel for registration of residential plots, houses or units.

As on date, the rates of stamp duty in the State are 7% and 5% for urban and rural areas respectively. Rates of 6 % and 4% respectively shall be applicable to defence personnel from now onwards.

The benefit can however be availed only once during a person’s lifetime.

The following was stated by the Haryana CM on the subject :

“We have taken this decision as an appreciation for the armed forces personnel as they have sterling qualities of courage, discipline, loyalty and implicit obedience of orders. They are the guardians of safety and honour of this country.”

Monday, July 19, 2010

The curious case of Surjit Kaur

Strange are our ways.

When Surjit Kaur’s husband, late Sepoy Sital Singh of the Punjab Regiment, died in World War II in Waziristan, nobody could have fathomed the ordeal his widow would have to face 70 years down time.

Sital, a member of the 5th Bn of 8 Punjab Regiment, was stationed in HQ Waziristan of the British Indian Army where he died in the year 1940 in action. His now 90 years old widow, Surjit Kaur, was granted family pension under the Indian Pension Regulations by the Controller of Military Accounts, Lahore (later adopted by PCDA (P) Allahabad). In the 2000s, somebody advised her to check her entitlement since she was in receipt of ordinary family pension rather than any other enhanced pension that is granted to widows of battle casualties. When she took up the case with the District Pension Disbursing Officer, her existing pension was discontinued on the ground that she was not the widow of a soldier of the British Indian Army - that her husband was an employee of the Burmese Army & the Burmese Govt. From that day onwards, the DPDO started releasing her an ‘ex gratia allowance’ that is granted to Burmese Govt Pensioners of Indian origin who shifted to India after Burma gained independence in 1948 (Actually Burmese Govt releases pension to its employees settled in India and the balance between the Burmese pension and the minimum applicable pension in India is paid by the Indian Govt and the total amount is known as ‘Ex- Gratia Allowance’). The reason for reaching such a conclusion was that the old documents that she possessed somewhere said that her late husband was serving in the 5th Bn (Burma) / 8 PUNJAB, now who would tell them that the 5th Bn was colloquially and informally referred to as 5th Bn (Burma) since the 93rd Burmese Infantry had merged into the 5th Bn in 1922, and even the 93rd Burma Infantry was a part of the British Indian Army comprising Indian soldiers. In any case, how could a Battalion of the Punjab Regt be a part of the Burmese Army was anybody’s guess ! And how could the deceased soldier be an employee of the Burmese Govt when he died in 1940, 8 years before Burma became independent ! The Records Office of the Punjab Regt had transferred the records of 5 / 8 PUNJAB to the Rajput Regiment which supported the claim of the widow but her requests for re-commencement of the correct type of family pension still fell on deaf ears since the DPDO and the PCDA now claimed that because her husband died in Waziristan in Burma (Yes, this is what was claimed), she was entitled to ex-gratia allowance as is granted to families of Burmese govt employees.

But what happened thereafter was truly amazing. When the widow approached the Armed Forces Tribunal with her predicament, the same Records Office of the Rajput Regiment which had been supporting her earlier, this time went for a somersault and started parroting the PCDA(P) line that her husband was killed in action in ‘Waziristan’ in Burma (this the Records office said on oath) and hence was a soldier of the Burmese Army. Recently, the AFT finally brushed aside this dim-witted claim and granted her pension of the applicable type due towards her by honourably treating her a widow of a British Indian Army soldier.

Why I am putting this story down is that it pains me when I keep hearing rants about the bureaucracy or babudom when our own are no better. In this case, just to support the dumb claims of some bored accountants, the Records Office of Rajput Regiment was cruel enough to state on affidavit that a KIA soldier of the Punjab Regiment was an employee of the Burmese Govt and that he had died in Waziristan in Burma. Not just that this lie was totally unethical and unwarranted and a slur on her late husband’s sacrifice but it was also against history and geography of the Indian sub-continent. Waziristan is in modern day Pakistan, not in Burma. She was issued a PPO by the PCDA(P) and not by the Burmese Accountant General. Burma attained independence in 1948 while the soldier died in 1940 and hence had no occasion of being employed by the Burmese Govt and probably the officer who signed the affidavit on oath did not realise that even a person with half a brain could say that ‘Punjab’ Regiment could not be a Regiment of post-independence Burmese Army.

Let us control our own untamed bulls before we point fingers at others. The AFT came to the rescue of this 90 year old lady, others may not be so lucky.