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 Legal advice/litigation related issues would strictly NOT be published or discussed or entertained.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

Monday, June 28, 2010

Guest Post : Majors to Minors - II

The second part of BeeCee’s guest post. These are his own views :-

My post on Navdeep’s blog was more of a suggestion to stop the unseemly (in my personal view) victimhood narrative of those in (or were once in) uniform; and may be nudge the affected parties into an introspection. It was not specifically for remedying the discriminatory pay structure but to understand the problem to begin with. As far as rectifying it is concerned, I suspect that the desire to keep the issue alive is stronger than the one to resolve it, as I had hinted in my very first post on the subject. But since it has been raised by some on the blog, here goes.

Some wise man once said that there are two types of fools. Those who give unsought advice, and those who don’t take it. Since I have more than once been in the first category for the matter under discussion, I offer no advice. But I have been convinced for many years that the simplest and most beneficial solution is to ask for the same pay structure as available to other Organised Gp A Services of GOI and as laid down by the IVth and Vth CPCs. Nothing more, nothing less.

Those who have read (was a must-read in our cadet-midshipman days) John Winton’s classic ‘We joined the Navy’ may remember the direction of the President of the Admiralty Selection Board to the Members in the book. “We do not require intelligent people in the Navy. We require half-wits; the Service will supply the other half, in due course”. Since I volunteered out before the other half was due, I may be a bit of a dimwit. Hence my inability to fathom, even after a decade of discussions, why we don’t seek this obviously (to me at least) better approach.

Here are some points to ponder for those interested. Bear with me for repetition from what has been said in some posts earlier.

1. Pay structuring is not some esoteric subject. Even those not initiated into its mysteries can see through the charade if you pay a little less attention to the pay experts and read for yourself.

2. Any pay expert who cannot explain the problem coherently to the average Joe either doesn’t understand it himself / herself or is covering up somebody’s past mistakes.

3. The devil may usually be in the detail, but as long as I can remember, the Services have got themselves tied up in knots over ‘pay matters’ because emphasis has generally been on minor SDs, ignoring the larger picture. Staff College may have something to answer for.

4. Maybe because Clausewitz said, “Everything is very simple in war, but the simplest thing is difficult,” military pay experts feel that they may not be taken seriously if they don’t make matters sound more complex than they actually are.

5. We must be careful of the terminology we use. In the armed forces ‘Select- list’ in personnel matters meant those “selected” for promotion. ‘Selection Grade’ in pay matters was meant to indicate a higher pay for those “not selected” (though eligible) for promotion. There seems to have been some change to selection grade since then, but a difference remains.

6. Reading various comments in the blogosphere I still get confusing signals on Maj Dhanapalan’s case. Was the crux of the issue in his writ the ‘recognition of rank pay as basic pay’ or ‘the reduction effected in basic pay by an amount equal to rank pay’? I would think the latter is much more important than the former. In any case it still does not resolve the loss of pay and status of Lt Col, Col and Brig. Anyone using this case to highlight the damage at the IV CPC will be well advised to quote this merely as an indicator of the damage done at the time.

7. Remember even after all the self goals (this is FIFA season), the IV CPC recommended the same pay for Director, Lt Col and DIG. After protests from the police, pay of both Lt Col and DIG were increased at the time.

8. I don’t have statistical data on this, but I am fairly certain that far less time, effort and paper have been spent on discussing the ‘basic pay structure’ that would benefit all, as compared to cases of allowances/ pay of interest groups whether it is Siachen, aviatiors, submariners, re-employed officers et al. This is not to say that they are to be ignored, but that there must be a sense of proportion. Or else all effort, goodwill and most important, the available window of opportunity will be wasted away on peripherals. A case in point is the case of ‘Lt Gens not promoted to Army Cdrs…’ this time around.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Finally, Moily takes a call…. (UPDATED)

We have discussed this issue a number of times before here on this blog.

The following blog-posts are pertinent to the issue :

This one published on 4th December 2009,

this on 31st January 2010,

and this one on 4th April 2010.

Well, finally Dr Moily has decided to promulgate a ‘National Litigation Policy’ which takes care of some of the issues highlighted by us in the recent past which also formed part of communications sent to the Law Ministry. I am also happy to inform that the Law Ministry has dealt with most of our points in the new policy and that the step is bold in the sense that it is for the first time that there has been an indication of a holistic overhaul of the legal system.

‘The Hindu’ has reported on the development. It is a welcome and a notable move, however the lower level babudom would still manage to exercise leverage in the various caveats and provisos of the policy which are aplenty if what is stated by the newsreport is taken to be correct. Also this idea of appealing against Court verdicts in cases involving ‘financial implications’ should be dumped forever since an illegality cannot be allowed to sustain on the pretext that its rectification shall burden the exchequer. In a democracy, financial burden can never be an excuse to perpetrate something that is declared illegal or arbitrary.

We would have to analyse its effect in practice but I’m sure the Law Ministry would be open to more suggestions in case of any pitfalls. Here is a reproduction of the newsreport :

(Updated Note : While the newsreport is reproduced below, the complete official National Litigation Policy can now be accessed by clicking here)

With the huge backlog of cases continuing to clog the wheels of justice, Union Law Minister M.Veerappa Moily on Wednesday launched a new policy initiative to ensure that government departments and agencies become more “responsible” in filing and pursuing cases.

Recognising that the departments and agencies contribute the maximum to court cases, the new ‘National Litigation Policy' enjoins on these organisations to think twice before resorting to litigations, as well as in pursuing them.

The policy statement makes it very clear that, “litigation will not be resorted to for the sake of litigating” and that “false pleas and technical points will not be taken.” It also lays down that correct facts, all relevant documents should be placed before the court and that nothing should be suppressed or an attempt made to mislead any court or tribunal.

The policy also directs that “the Government must cease to be a compulsive litigant” and states that, “the philosophy that matters should be left to the courts for ultimate decision has to be discarded” and that “the easy approach, ‘let the court decide' must be eschewed and condemned.” Drafted by the office of Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati, the policy provides a set of tools for its implementation, including a provision for appointment of well-trained nodal officers, with adequate legal background and expertise by each and every department and agency for a “pro-active” management of its cases and constitution of empowered committees to monitor the implementation of the policy.

Acknowledging that frequent adjournments are resorted to by government lawyers, the policy states: “unnecessary and frequent adjournments would be frowned upon and infractions dealt with seriously.” Defaulting lawyers may even have their names removed or suspended from government panels.

The policy also provides that in service matters, no appeal would be filed in cases where the matter pertains to an individual grievance without any major repercussion or where the matter pertains to a case of pension or retirement benefits without involving any principle and without setting any precedent or financial implications.

Further, an appeal would not be filed in service matters merely because the order of the Administrative Tribunal affects a number of employees and appeals would not be filed to espouse the cause of one section of employees against another. Challenges to orders of Tribunals would be an exception rather than a matter of routine. Mr. Moily said that in keeping with the new policy, all pending cases involving the government would be reviewed and categorised in order of priority so that they could be disposed of quickly.

Noting that the monitoring and review mechanism proposed under the policy would help prevent delay and neglect of important cases, he said, “May be, cases like the Bhopal case would not be repeated.” Asked about the curative petition that the Group of Ministers (GoM) have recommended on the Bhopal case, Mr. Vahanvati, who was also present at the launch function, said, the Law Minister had only made a suggestion before the GoM and that it was not a considered opinion. The GoM's recommendation had to first go to the Union Cabinet for approval before any follow up measure could be taken up. In response to a question, he acknowledged that the 1996 Supreme Court order judgment “wrong as a matter of law,” he said: “I am not criticising the judgment. [But,] I am entitled to tell you that it is wrong. I say it as a matter of law. I believe there are contradictions in the judgment and there are lot of material that have come up post that judgment.” The Attorney-General pointed to evidence that people knew that there were some flaws in the factory and that they were not rectified as matter of economy.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

This is no way to treat the enemy

By blatantly copying disruptive pattern uniform, some central police organisations and even state forces have started comparing themselves with the Army. But their ethos and actions show that they have a long way to go. This picture flashed around the country would illustrate how !

Though the public at large is totally with the Home Ministry in its resolve to tackle the Maoist epidemic, the way the enemy is treated differentiates an irregular militia from an Army, and these men in the picture prove that they are more of the former and none of the latter.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Latest changes in Travelling Allowance rules related to transportation of personal effects, and anomalies therein

The rules and rates for claiming TA for transportation of personal effects have been revised. The discussion on the same has remained quite heavy on the chat box and hence I thought of providing the link to the latest changes. The new letter issued by the Ministry of Finance on the subject can be accessed by clicking here.

A friend has pointed out a very pertinent anomaly in the said dispensation, here it is in his own words :

“Different rates have been prescribed for X & Y class cities on one hand and Z class cities on the other hand. This has created an anomalous situation where personnel posted from a Z class city which is further away than an enroute Y class city will get a lesser amount. For example, if a person (eg Sub Maj) drawing grade pay of Rs. 4800 is posted from Udhampur (Z class) to Delhi, he will be entitled to Rs 11592 as the distance between these cities is 644 Kms. Another Officer of same Rank when posted from Jammu to Delhi (distance 620 Kms) will be entitled to Rs.18600/-. It may be noted that hiring of truck/transport from Udhampur to Delhi is always more expensive than hiring it from Jammu to Delhi. The situation becomes more absurd if these Officers are posted to far away places like Guwahati. The distance of Guwahati from Jammu and Udhampur is 2315 Kms and 2381 Kms respectively. The entitlement works out to be Rs.69,450/- and Rs.42858/-. The lower entitlement from a farther away place on same route is clearly anomalous.”

A very valid point. Perhaps it is time for another clarification and amendment to the original OM. The ibid clarification has taken about two years, let’s see how much one has to wait for this one…

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Clarification issued for non-functional upgradation to STS level for organised Group-A civil services

As regular readers would know, non-functional financial upgradation was implemented in the civil services after recommendations to the said effect by the 6th CPC. The said scheme essentially involves the grant of a higher grade pay (and pay band, if applicable) with two years’ difference vis-à-vis IAS officers of the same batch in conjunction with the central staffing scheme. For example, if an IAS officer is empanelled as Director to Govt of India in Pay-Band-4 with Grade Pay of Rs 8700 after 15 years of service, then other Group-A civil service officers would also be placed in Pay-Band-4 after 17 years of service on a non-functional basis, meaning thereby that they shall be granted higher pay but not status.

Problems were however being faced by officers in the Junior Time Scale (Pay-Band-3 Grade Pay 5400) of some civil services since the empanellment of IAS officers is almost non-existent at the Senior Time Scale (STS) level (Pay-Band-3 Grade Pay 6600). Since hence there is no point of comparison at STS level, the govt has decided to grant Grade Pay of Rs 6600 on a non-functional basis to all those Group-A officers of the organized civil services who complete 7 years in Group-A.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Disabled veterans should not feel too happy by Raksha Mantri’s statement

Disabled veterans have been given the impression that the defence ministry has introduced some kind of a new allowance for disability pensioners @ Rs 3000 per month. The confusion emanates from a recent speech by the Defence Minister at an official function, where, according to media reports, he stated the following :

''Keeping in view the valour and sacrifice made by the army personnel, those who retired on disability grounds would get an additional Rs 3000 per month as constant attendant in additional (sic) to the disability pension”

This is grossly misleading, and for three compelling reasons, departmental action should be taken against the person who prepared the Defence Minister’s speech. Firstly, Constant Attendant Allowance (CAA) is nothing new and has been in force since times immemorial, it has merely been enhanced from the earlier Rs 600 per month to Rs 3000 per month w.e.f 01-01-2006 by the 6th CPC by way of its recommendations presented way back in March 2008. The defence ministry or the govt had no role to play in this enhancement which anyway is stale news and our Minister is late by some years in getting to know about it. Even otherwise, the amount is totally inadequate since no full time attendant can be hired in Rs 3000 which is less than even the prescribed minimum wages. Secondly, it has nothing to do with the ‘valour’ or ‘sacrifice’ by ‘army’ personnel since it is available across the board to civil central govt employees as well. Thirdly, it is not available to all disabled personnel but only to those who are 100% disabled.

This is another example as to how lower level bureaucracy has managed to convince even the political executive about this non-existent imaginary benevolence. Those who have touted this to the media as an ‘announcement’ should definitely face the music for misguiding the Minister and misleading the media and the public at large.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Q & A (11)

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.

Are widows entitled to two family pensions for two spells of services rendered by the serviceman ? (Ex-Sub Maj Gurcharan Singh)

Widows are entitled to two family pensions only if one of the family pensions is under a contributory scheme. Two proper family pensions from the government under non-contributory schemes are not admissible.

I sustained an injury in a battle inoculation training exercise in the year 1999 but have not been classified a battle casualty despite several requests. What is the actual rule position ? (Capt SS Davar)

Such injuries are battle casualties for financial purposes and physical casualties for statistical purposes in accordance with corrigendum to SAO 8/S/85 issued on 15 May 1991.

I sustained an injury in an MT accident which was declared as attributable to service but I was not granted disability pension since I was partly blamed for negligence in the accident. Is it correct on the part of CDA authorities to do so ? (Ex-Sub Rajan Kashyap)

Totally incorrect. When there is negligence on part of an individual, the disability element can be reduced but not refused. Please refer to Regulation 175 of the Pension Regulations.

I sustained injury while containing an unruly mob while deployed in aid to civil power. I have been granted normal disability pension but I feel that I should have been granted a higher rate of disability pension. What is my correct entitlement ? (ABC)

You are authorised War-Injury Pension and not regular Disability Pension. Please refer to Para 10.1 of MoD letter dated 31 Jan 2001 on the subject.

My service rendered as a ‘boy’ has not been counted for pension, what steps should I take to get it counted ? (Ex-Reservist Surya Kant)

‘Boy’ service has to be counted towards pension vide MoD letter No 1034/C/02-D (Pen/Sers) dated 10 Oct 2003. Even the Hon’ble Supreme Court has ruled the same. Kindly quote the ibid letter to your Records Office and they shall do the needful. Endorse a copy of your representation to the office of PCDA(P) Allahabad also.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The turning point in disability jurisprudence : Now AFT rings the Bell

The Sword of Justice has no scabbard - Antione de Riveral

There is no dearth of discussion on this blog on the very important issue of determination of attributability and aggravation of disabilities of personnel of defence services by service medical authorities and medical boards. Declaration of attributability and aggravation of disabilities due to military service ultimately determines whether a person shall be entitled to disability pension or not, or whether the family of a deceased shall remain entitled to special or liberalised family pensionary awards or not.

The fact that our medical boards are interpreting rules in a restrictive and literal manner rather than a liberal and beneficial manner (as intended and proclaimed by those very rules) has been discussed earlier in detail on these posts of 18th May, 4th April and 10th April. The problem is compounded by the fact that the office of DGAMFS has issued some conflicting letters on the subject which are even in direct contravention of rules. Needless to say, such instructions which are in conflict with rules or regulations have no value in the eyes of law.

The truly landmark order by the Jaipur Bench of the Hon’ble Armed Forces Tribunal shall, if taken in the right spirit, mark the turning point in the history of disability jurisprudence and may also lead to self-correction. These are the opening lines of the decision rendered on 20th May 2010 in the case of Ex-Hav Mohar Singh Vs Union Of India :

“A shockingly bizarre incident reflects inhuman treatment which has crossed all boundaries of humanity by superior responsible Armed Forces Medical Officers, whose actions when resulted into injustice forced the applicant to seek his legal remedy in the form of the present application for grant of disability pension”

In the said case, which could bring tears even to the eyes of a layman, a veteran who was suffering from an unknown progressive neurological disorder triggered by a vehicular accident while in a military vehicle in an operational area and which resulted in multiple bodily and head injuries, was boarded out with 80% disability declared as ‘aggravated by military service’ by a duly constituted medical board thereby entitling him to disability pension. The papers for pension were however rejected by the PCDA(P) who discarded the contention of the medical board, an action which has time and again been deprecated by Hon’ble Courts including the Supreme Court (But would we ever learn ?). He was then called for an Appeal Medical Board (AMB) for fresh medical examination. The veteran appeared before the AMB on a wheel-chair but the said AMB not only declared his disability percentage as NIL but also declared it ‘neither attributable to, nor aggravated by military service’ opting to endorse the administrative opinion of the PCDA(P) rather than the expert opinion of the release medical board. Smelling something amiss when the veteran appeared before the Tribunal on a stretcher, the Hon’ble AFT ordered a fresh medical board which again correctly declared the disability as ‘aggravated by service’ and also pegged the disability @ 100%.

Not taking this lightly, the Hon’ble AFT, besides granting him disability pension, has also directed the payment of costs of Rs 100,000/- to the veteran to be recovered from the salaries of the members of the Appeal Medical Board who had declared the disability as NIL and ‘neither attributable to, nor aggravated by service’. The Govt has also been directed to initiate disciplinary action under the Army Act against all three members of the AMB.

Following are some excerpts from this truly landmark judgement :

“The applicant has been left in lurch only on the random report without taking in consideration the due care and circumstances of the case by mentioning the percentage of disability as NIL. Such type of conduct, behaviour and manner of performance of duties on the part of the AMB, which consisted of ABC, DEF and GHI deserves to be deprecated as they have acted in callous manner and have committed gross negligence by depriving the applicant of his legal dues and rights. The applicant had to starve for pretty six years without any medical and financial assistance from the non-applicants only because of the callous action of the members of the AMB.”

“What has rankled us more is the callous manner, inhuman approach and failure of performance of duty on the part of the members of the AMB dealing with applicant’s case. The applicant has to be compensated for the travails undergone by him. For this gross negligence, we impose costs of Rs 1,00,000/- (Rs One Lakh only) to be paid to the applicant by the non-applicants but it is to be recovered from the salary of all the three Officers of the AMB i.e. ABC, DEF and GHI jointly and collectively in equal ratio. We also direct that all these three Officers should be subjected to disciplinary action under the Army Act.”

While one tends to feel sorry for the members of the board on whom costs have been imposed, the writing on the wall is that we need to set our house in order. Ordinarily, such problems should be resolved in-house without resort to litigation, but instead of looking inwards we continue to crib about ‘external forces’. There is not even a requirement of an overhaul. If our medical boards are made to read and apply in spirit the Entitlement Rules for Casualty Pensionary Awards, 1982, promulgated by the Govt of India, and ignore the subsequently issued subjective letters from time to time from the M-Block, not even one case for disability pension would reach judicial fora and the flow of correct entitlements would become a rule rather than exception as is the case on date.

Friday, June 4, 2010

God Speed !

Speed, have you experienced it while dealing with officialdom ? Chances are close to nil !

In the aftermath of the voices raised against the 6th CPC recommendations presented in March 2008, none less than the PMO had announced the setting up of a High Level Committee to look into the status, command and control issues concerning the military vis-à-vis the civilian hierarchy. Well, though eagerly awaited, it is yet to see the light of the day.

Fast forward, March 2010. The Hon’ble Supreme Court settled the rank pay controversy and directed the govt to release the arrears to affected officers with effect from 01 January 1986. And what happened next you may ask !, immediately a High Level Committee of Secretaries was set up to look into the financial aspect of the issue and within a period of less than a week it came up with its report that the financial damage would be more than rupees 1600 crores. The govt is now back in the Hon’ble Apex Court with a review application seeking a re-look.

Speed varies with the fact as to who is the affected party. And since when did financial burden become a reason to perpetrate an illegality ?