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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

OPED in ‘The Tribune’ : Administrative egotism and mischief must cease

Though regular readers are in picture of the issues touched therein, the full text of the OPED in ‘The Tribune’ which appeared on 06 July 2010 is as follows :

Administrative egotism and mischief must cease

Navdeep Singh

The National Litigation Policy recently unveiled by the Law Minister would have special significance for the defence services in general and disabled veterans in particular. The policy ordains that frivolous appeals would not be filed by government departments and that appeals from orders of Tribunals shall be an exception rather than the rule. The policy also directs that false and misleading pleas or technical points shall not be espoused before judicial fora.

Since the last few years, veterans have been at the receiving end of paper violence perpetrated by legal pundits of the government, who, guided by a strange spirit of sadism, exhaust every single game in the book to ensure that disability benefits do not reach the beneficiaries even when directed by higher judiciary. To begin with, medical authorities indulge in ‘literal’ interpretation of rules rather than ‘liberal’ thereby denying disability benefits to disabled soldiers. They forget the ‘spirit’ while clinging to the ‘letter’. When there is a judicial pronouncement granting disability pension, appeals and reviews are filed as a matter of routine even in cases fully covered by earlier decisions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court and High Courts. It is not the higher echelons of governance or the services headquarters which are to blame but the swarm of section officers, under secretaries and deputy secretaries who rule the roost. Yes, the lower level bureaucracy with its caustic file-notings unfortunately runs the government. The idea is simple, even if there is a verdict in favour of a disabled veteran, file an appeal, take a chance, and maybe the verdict would be overruled because it is well known that our jawans cannot afford proper legal aid up till the Hon’ble Apex Court.

That the new policy has specially mentioned ‘false’ and ‘misleading’ pleas goes to show that the Minister is aware of the malaise that has set in. Appeals are filed not out of legal necessity but because of administrative egotism – ‘How could a petty employee win a case against the mighty officialdom ?’. Then comes the ‘hook’ or ‘crook’ stage wherein dubious pleas are presented before Hon’ble Courts with departments even misguiding their own counsel into presenting incorrect pleadings, which if not rebutted by a well acquainted legal brain, end in pronouncements which can hardly be termed well-rounded. The presence of these two words - ‘false’ and ‘misleading’ in the policy reminds me of some specific cases with special reference to disabled soldiers. In Secretary MoD Vs Ajit Singh case (2009), the statement of the defence ministry is on record wherein it has been stated that disability pension was not released to the veteran since he did not have the minimum required service of 10 years to his credit. Needless to say, in reality, there is no minimum service requirement for disability pension and even a recruit is entitled to the same. In the recent case of Karan Singh Vs UOI (2010) before the Jaipur AFT, it was espoused by the central government that it is the Army alone that provides disability pension to its employees. However truth is that civilian employees are also entitled to exactly the same benefits since 1939. In PK Kapur Vs UoI (2007) the government went hammer and tongs proclaiming how it had the right to fix a cut-off date for grant of certain enhanced disability benefits which had been refused to pre-1996 defence retirees. The case went in favour of the government since the Court was never informed that the said benefits through the same master notification had already been extended to similarly placed pre-1996 civilian retirees as back as in 2001. The Petitioner could not rebut the falsehood since he could not afford a lawyer.

It is not that mischievous elements are playing around only with the pious institution of judiciary, the higher strata of governance is also not left untouched. In an official speech last month obviously prepared by a similarly inclined officer, the Defence Minster was made to ‘announce’ with pride that the government had introduced an additional amount of Rs 3000 as constant attendance allowance for disabled soldiers keeping in view the ‘valour and sacrifices of army personnel’. So far so good, but the humble Minister was not in the knowledge that firstly, constant attendance allowance is applicable to civilian employees too and hence has nothing to do with ‘valour and sacrifices’, secondly it is a concept in force since times immemorial and is nothing new and even its enhancement is old news which was announced in March 2008 by the sixth pay commission, thirdly it is not applicable to all disabled personnel but only to 100% disabled retirees. In the past two years there have been other instances where the political executive and the top brass have been misled into announcing beneficial ‘policy decisions’ by hiding from them the fact that the same had actually been necessitated due to Supreme Court verdicts.

When the top block itself is victim of tomfoolery emanating from the bottom, what can the poor soldier expect ?

11 comments:

SATTY'S CORNER said...

The Govt must withdraw their appeal in the Rank Pay case which they have filed in the supreme court inspite of its judgment dated 08 Mar 2010 as a precursor to the policy which they want to adopt of being faltu litigants in most of the cases and let affected people get their dues.

Navdeep / Maj Navdeep Singh said...

@Satty's Corner

Actually it's a 'review' petition and not an appeal. There is no appeal from an SC order which is the apex court.

Regards

N

Anonymous said...

Dear Navdeep,

The Rank pay case will be a watershed in determining and restoration of status. i hope sanity prevails in govt (lower babudom) since there are thousands who are waiting to approach the courts again for justice.

regards

maverick

Anonymous said...

Sir,
The rank Pay case technically also deals with pension.
In the case of Maj Gen Vains, ht govt has defacto accepted one rank-one pension to all Maj Gen.
So sir, If it is right how can the govt be discriminatory in denying to all other ranks.
May be it is prudent for atleast one officer/PBOR from each rank to go to court against this discrimination and get a judgement.

Please consider.

anil paranjpye said...

Like I had said earlier,the clerical staff by virtue of their long (as much as 10 years) tenure at the same desk in Service HQ and MoD is well aware of past cases when it comes to formulating a decision and Officers depend heavily upon them for precedents. It is for Asst Dirs and Under Secys and above to take advice from the staff but think independently while arriving at a decision.When it comes to getting a proposal accepted, it helps to discuss it beforehand personally at the Desk Officer level-most of them are intelligent and will be appreciative of prior informal discussion.Just pushing a file with a proposal may not help.

Bharat Sinh said...

Dear Navdeep
Kindly let us know if this is true?
Regards
Capt. Bharat Sinh
Army tribunal orders equal disability pension

New Delhi: The Armed Forces Tribunal on Wednesday asked the government to pay equal war disability pension to personnel who retire at the same rank irrespective of the pay commission under which they have left the service.
Hearing a plea by Lt Col (retired) P K Kapur, the tribunal’s principal bench “struck down” the defence ministry circular issued in 2008 regarding wardisability pension.
“Government is directed to give benefit of war disability pension without any distinction between pre- and post-2006 retirees,” the bench said, asking the ministry to pay the difference in pension to Kapur with 12% interest from 2006. According to the present policy, personnel who have retired after 2006 get more benefits under the war disability pension. Following the verdict, all eligible retired personnel are likely to get the pension according to the 6th Pay Commission. AGENCIES

ranjit kadam said...

Dear Maj Navdeep Singh

First of all let me thank you from the bottom of my heart to bring out the issues concerning the poor and pitiable soldier day-in and day-out,without tiring.
At the same time, there are certain issues which you have rightly brought out for everyone's knowledge, but these same issues have raised very pertinent and basic queries in my mind, and I am sure in many others as well. They are as under:
1. ISSUE: It is not the higher echelons of governance or the services headquarters which are to blame but the swarm of section officers, under secretaries and deputy secretaries who rule the roost. Yes, the lower level bureaucracy with its caustic file-notings unfortunately runs the government.
QUERY: Yes, the lower level officers are suppose to bring out the issues on the file but it is the senior level who has to take decision and every one has to take responsibility for his/her decision. By the way I do not consider under secretaries and deputy secretaries as junior officers. Secondly if only lower level bureaucracy has to run the government, then why waste much needed public fund on higher level bureaucracy, which in any case is not accountable to any one.

ISSUE: Then comes the ‘hook’ or ‘crook’ stage wherein dubious pleas are presented before Hon’ble Courts with departments even misguiding their own counsel into presenting incorrect pleadings
QUERY: It some how indicates that even the false pleas and blatant lies can be presented in the Hon’ble Courts and nothing can happen to anyone who is presenting a LIE in the court. Hon’ble Courts in INDIA are helpless just like a soldier(some consolation, at last a soldier has a company in his pitiable state) and a lier can go scot free without any punishment. Secondly, it is not palatable that a learned counsel is misguided by the bureaucracy so easily time and again and a council does not verify the facts before arguing in the Hon’ble Courts, as these sort of cases are occurring very often, where false and misguided facts are presented. I have no reason to doubt the integrity of any individual or any profession but no council will present a lie(‘false’ and ‘misleading’)in the Hon’ble Courts without any purpose.

ISSUE: The presence of these two words - ‘false’ and ‘misleading’ in the policy reminds me of some specific cases with special reference to disabled soldiers... There is no minimum service requirement for disability pension and even a recruit is entitled to the same. In the recent case of Karan Singh Vs UOI (2010) before the Jaipur AFT, it was espoused by the central government that it is the Army alone that provides disability pension to its employees. However truth is that civilian employees are also entitled to exactly the same benefits since 1939.
QUERY: I am horribly surprised that the Hon’ble Courts do not know/understand the pension position which are applicable even to much respected judiciary and fails to take sue-o-motto cognizance on its own on the ‘false’ and ‘misleading’ facts presented before the bench.

All of us know that you are a busy man and may not get a time to go through it, but I wanted to pen down my thoughts/doubts.
The above issues and queries might be silly and eventually exposing my ignorance/stupidity.
Thank you, anyway.

AKSA said...

The 'Review Petition' relating to the decision of the Hon'ble Supreme Court, on the IV Pay Commission Rank Pay issue, was expected to be heard in July 2010. Does anyone have news of its current status?

Rajababu said...

God save us all. Its our top echelons in the services who need to get their act together to take on the Beaurecracy else we are going down in dumps

captainjohann said...

Dear Maj Navdeep,
A telling comment PAPER VIOLENCE.I saw this blog only today and i hope to ask questions and get answers for PSYCHO SOCIAL DISABLED.I am cutting and pasting a recent Supreme court Judgement due to Paper violence by Army Meical board which is not normally questioned by the Apex court.The judgement is contradictory to the judgfement by J&K court in the case of a sepoy whome you have quoted and also another old Judgement by Judge Sirohi in 1990s and I donot rember the number of case.
The following judgement by the supremecourt is in violation of the Persons with disabilities equal opportunities act 1995 and it is due to paper violence by the Army medical board.I am sure they may not be knowing about IDEAS SCALE(For measuring mental illness disability)devised by Ministry os Scoial justice.
"""Om Prakash Singh v. Union of India & Others, (Decided on 20.07.2010) MANU/SC/0495/2010

Disability pension – Entitlement thereto - Appellant, while serving in the Army, had contacted the disease known as "Unspecified Psychosis" – He was invalided out from the service –Claim of disability pension was rejected

Held, In the instant case, as per the records, in the opinion of the Medical Board, the condition of the Appellant cannot be said to have triggered on account of the military service and in the opinion of the Medical Board, the disease was not at all attributable to the military service.

The Medical Board is an expert body and they take into consideration all relevant factors and essential practice before arriving at any opinion and its opinion is entitled to be given due weight, merit credence and value.

Board in the instant case, gave unanimous opinion that the disease was neither attributable to nor aggravated by the military service. The findings of the Medical Board were accepted by the Division Bench of the High Court, which does not call for any interference. Appellant not entitled to the disability pension. Appeal was dismissed."""

This paper violence is what makes Army so unpopular amongst the jawans.

VENUGOPAL ML said...

JAI HIND SABJEE.
First of all let me thank a lot from the bottom of my heart to you sir for bring out the issues concerning the poor and pitiable PBOR.

MAY GOD BLISS WITH CONFIDENCE AND FULL OF RAYS TO TACKLE WITH MOD IN ALL LEGAL ASPECTS OF ALL VETERANS OF INDIAN ARMED FORCES.
THANKING YOU SIR

VENUGOPAL ML
EX VETERAN EME
KARNATAKA