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 Legal advice/litigation related issues would strictly NOT be published or discussed or entertained.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

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

From the University of Southern California : Drawing Down the Troops

A self-explanatory message from Ms Jenn Pedde of the University of Southern California :

As I'm sure you know, earlier this year, President Obama announced that our service members stationed in Iraq are being ordered to return home. The MSW@USC (University of Southern California, School of Social Work's online MSW program - http://msw.usc.edu) created an infographic entitled, "Drawing Down Troops from Iraq," to present a balanced view of how many troops have served overseas and the challenges they'll face when they return at the end of the year.  For example, there are currently 900,000 veterans unemployed and still over 20,000 troops yet to return. We've highlighted the VOW to Hire Veterans Act and the Yellow Ribbon program, and we hope that you'll share this with your readers to help us support the troops.

  Drawing Down Troops from Iraq Infographic - MSW@USC
Brought to you by USC: MSW Programs

Saturday, December 24, 2011

On the chain-mail concerning non-functional upgradation

Most of the readers of this blog, and also those concerned with anything military, must have received a chain-mail highlighting the agony of defence officers resulting from the denial of the applicability of non-functional upgradation. I have received many requests on the blog, and through email, to clarify whether the points raised in the said chain-mail are true. Of course, the points are true and the issue has also formed a part of an earlier blog-post titled ‘Are we the masters of self defeat?’. But having said that, some points raised in the said mail require clarification :-

A.  On completion of appx 32 years of service, officers of the civil Group A Services would not get the Grade Pay of 12000 in Pay Band-4 as stated in the mail but shall get the much higher HAG Pay Band (Rs 67000 – 79000). Grade Pay of Rs 12000 stands abolished and HAG now has a separate pay band. Also the SAG Scale with GP 10000 would not be attained in 19 years but in approximately 22 years by civil officers of the said services.

B.  Officers of the IAS are not empaneled as Joint Secretaries to Govt of India in 17 years. The current period is approximately 20 years.

C.  It is not as if the Govt of India has declared Commissioned Officers as non Group A organised services Officers, it is so because the nomenclature of ‘Organised Group A Services’ was never used for military officers and the same is a civil concept. Commissioned Officers of the defence services, All India Service Officers (IAS, IPS and Indian Forest Service) and officers of the Organised Group A Services (formerly known as Class-I services) have historically been equated at the start point. And still are, in the sense that all of the above services, even after the 6th CPC, commence in PB-3 with GP 5400, however the nomenclature is mutually exclusive.

D.  It is incorrect to suggest that Group B Services (equivalent to JCOs) are also retiring as Joint Secretaries to Govt of India.

E.  It is absolutely incorrect that even Sub Inspectors of CAPFs would retire in the pay of Lt Gen. It is not so.

The grant of non-functional financial upgradation to all organised Group A Services and also to the All India Services, has resulted in almost OROP of a kind at officer level through the back-door. The pensions of such officers granted non-functional upgradation to HAG are also fixed at HAG levels and would continue to be fixed as such even after successive pay commissions since pensions are regulated on the basis of the scale last held (and not the rank / post last held).

Hopefully somebody would be willing to listen if the COSC takes up the issue with renewed vigour. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

The much awaited Parliamentary Committee Report on Military Pensions submitted today

The Parliamentary (Rajya Sabha) Committee on Petitions submitted its report today.

For those who want to peruse the full report may click here to download the entire copy.

As a keen observer of developments in the field, my observations are as under :

A.   The Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare (DESW) of the MoD, with Ms Neelam Nath at the (then) ceremonial helm, and with two Under Secretaries actually and practically running the entire show, has been less than truthful with the committee with its inputs. The first proof of the same being the figure of Rs 3000 crore per year for OROP projected by the said department which tacitly has been contradicted by the Department of Expenditure which in turn has pegged the annual expenditure for the first year at Rs 1300 crore.

B.   The DESW had put forth the reasons of financial, administrative and legal impediments in implementing OROP. While projecting administrative difficulties, it was pointed out that the information regarding pensioners was not available since military documents are weeded out after 25 years. This, my friends, is a bundle of lies. Firstly, the 25 years limit applies to non-pensioners and not to pensioners. Secondly, naturally OROP is to apply to pensioners only and if a person is a pensioner, he or she would obviously be in receipt of pension based on a PPO which would contain all requisite information such as the length of service and rank which is all that is required.

C.   Even the legal difficulties expressed by DESW have no legs to stand upon. The DESW commented that the Supreme Court had upheld the implementation of cut-off dates in pensionary matters in various cases. However, what DESW did not mention is the fact that there are many more decisions in which cut-off dates have been deprecated, including very recent ones.

D.   The representatives of the Army, Navy and Air Force supported the cause of OROP. A mere reading of the report also seemingly indicates that while the representatives of the Services were very much present in the initial meetings and very fairly assisted the Committee, they were probably not present during the final meeting of deliberation when the Secretaries were again heard on 14 Nov 2011. Perhaps chary of the proper and fair assistance provided to the Committee by the Services, the military reps were not brought in by the DESW on the penultimate date. This is the impression that I get, perhaps the Services HQ would be able to elaborate if my guess is correct.

E.   The findings of the Committee were appreciable and pro-veteran. The Committee has observed that the demands of veterans were included in Election Manifestoes of various parties but not given effect. The Committee has also observed that OROP was existing in a way till 1973 when it was withdrawn in an ex-parte manner by the 3rd CPC which linked the pensionary system of the armed forces with that of civilian employees. The committee also observed that there was no comparison with civilian employees and defence services faced much harsher conditions coupled with an early retirement age. The committee also observed that given the economy of the country, Rs 1300 crore per year was not a heavy figure.

F.   However, most importantly, the following observations of the committee summed up the essence of the entire exercise :-

“…They (defence services) serve the nation with utmost devotion and selflessness but their demands are consistently being ignored, not by the heads of the Armed Forces, but by bureaucrats. It’s a typical example of bureaucratic apathy. To continue this apathy, the Ministries apprised the Committee that if OROP were to be implemented, similar demands may be raised from civilian employees. This argument the committee finds is a baseless apprehension...The defence personnel in the PBOR category retire when they are around 35-40 years of age. Even the officers retire when they are around 55 years of age. That is the time when they have family and social responsibilities to discharge for which they need sound financial support. This is certainly not the case with civilian work force where the age of retirement is 60 uniformly…The committee is not convinced with the hurdles projected by the DESW in implementing OROP for defence personnel…”

Friday, December 16, 2011

Introducing ‘Forces Law Gazette’ (FLG) : www.lawgazette.net

This day, 16th December, is militarily a significant date for the region.

I feel pleased today in announcing the release of the first issue of the ‘FORCES LAW GAZETTE’ – a free, non-commercial quarterly newsletter dealing with law & allied issues related to uniformed services of not just India but other democracies as well. Meant more for general reading than use in Courts, the Gazette would consist of three broad categories – (1) Law related to uniformed services, (2) Developments & Miscellaneous, and (3) Contributions & Articles.

The Gazette would remain available through www.lawgazette.net for free download and distribution in pdf format.

I would like to place on record my gratitude to the Editors and Contributors to the newsletter. I would specially like to thank Mr Eugene R Fidell and Ms Michelle Lindo McCluer, former President and Executive Director respectively of the National Institute of Military Justice, for their support and valuable inputs.

Contributions in the form of articles are welcome and may be sent to me by email for publication in future issues. We hope to effectively sustain the concept with the next issue due in March 2012.

Thank You.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Yet another day, but the hassle sorted out!

This is in reference to the blog post of 10 Dec 2011 wherein it was pointed out that that NHAI had wrongly written to one of the toll operators in Punjab that toll exemption is only to be provided to private vehicles of defence personnel when they were in uniform.

The issue was accordingly taken up with the concerned authorities and I am glad to inform that the NHAI has communicated to me yesterday that they have taken corrective action and clarified the correct position to the said toll operator. The NHAI has also regretted the inconvenience caused. Since the letter was being flaunted by other operators too, the NHAI has sent a copy of the clarification to all other operators in the region.

The issue thus stands resolved and closed. Wake up my brethren in uniform, it is not every-time that others would come to your rescue !

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Another day, another hassle !

I sometimes feel tired of symptomatically handling the toll tax exemption issue.

Now in utter contravention of the Indian Tolls (Army & Air Force) Act, 1901, directions of the Govt of India and law laid down by the Supreme Court, an officer of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has endorsed a communication dated 24 Nov 2011 to one of the private toll operators in Punjab that toll exemption to private vehicles of defence personnel is only to be provided when the person is in uniform.

Needless to say, there is no such legal or statutory requirement and the exemption is actually applicable and available to both on-duty and off-duty defence personnel. And as expected, the letter has virally spread to many other toll operators who are using and quoting it as an excuse to deny toll exemption on other roads and bridges.

While I have taken up the issue for corrective action and am hopeful for early rectification, I feel boggled by the constant requests to tackle this by officers serving in the Services HQ – it in fact is their duty to take this on proactively and without any timidity. Their requests should be directed towards the Movement Directorate and not towards me since I have very limited time on my hands to physically get such issues resolved since it involves personal interaction, liaison and travel to Delhi. I have already in 2008 provided all material on the subject to the Services HQ which is enough for resolution of any related controversy for all times to come. The material can also be accessed by perusing this blogpost of September 2008. Interestingly, the condition of being in uniform had been initially imposed on the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway also and which was blindly endorsed by the office of ADG Movement in 2007 but the same was effectively tackled, the details of which can be accessed by clicking here.

Will keep readers informed about the progress on this latest goof-up by NHAI.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Clearing misconceptions related to the applicability of the CAT judgement on defence personnel

This blog had carried a report of a judgement pronounced by the Full Bench of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) related to fixation of pension of pre-2006 retirees.

After the judgement, there have been chain mails circulating all around stating that the judgement shall result in enhancement of pension of all military ranks and that the Govt had decided not to challenge the judgement in the Supreme Court. I have also received a number of mails seeking clarification on the said orders.

With an attempt to clarify the issue, the following points are enumerated :

1. The CAT judgement has laid down nothing new for military pensioners and the same subject had last year been adjudicated upon by the Chandigarh and Principal Benches of the AFT for military pensioners on exactly similar lines. While the CAT has pronounced the judgement in Nov 2011, the same had been pronounced by the AFT in Sept and Nov 2010.

2. The CAT judgement has NO, repeat NO applicability on military pensioners since the CAT has jurisdiction over only civilian Central Govt employees / former employees.

3. The Govt has NOT, repeat NOT, taken any decision about challenging the judgement, and moreover, judgements of the CAT are challenged before a Division Bench of the High Court and not before the Supreme Court.

4. The Govt has already challenged before the Supreme Court the verdict in the Majors’ case on similar lines rendered by the AFT. The Supreme Court had issued a notice on the case but no stay has been granted on the AFT judgement.

5. In case the Govt does decide to implement the CAT decision or take a favourable decision on similar lines, then the same would automatically be extended to commissioned officers of the forces also since the interpretation involved is exactly the same.

6. The scope of the controversy regarding ‘minimum of pay within the pay band’ vs ‘minimum of the pay band itself’ has now become wider and directly affects all civil pensioners of the Central Govt and all Commissioned pensioners of the defence services. It does not affect lower ranks of the defence services since the calculation formula of Sepoy to Subedar Major is different than the formula used for commissioned officers or central civil govt retirees.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Is this correct when the SC is examining the issue threadbare ?

This relates to the blog post published on 23 Nov 2011 related to grant of permanent commission to women in the armed forces.

While the official Press Release makes it clear that the govt has already issued a policy letter on 11 Nov 2011 on the subject, it makes one wonder whether the same could have been ethically done in light of the fact that the matter has already been adjudicated by the Delhi High Court and an SLP filed by the Govt is pending before the Supreme Court and the matter is sub judice. Moreover, the Supreme Court has already made it clear to the Govt that there is no stay on the Delhi High Court judgement. As on date hence, the Delhi High Court judgement is ‘law’ for all intents and purposes and for the govt to issue a policy letter while the matter is still under judicial examination, is a little unnatural. Rather than simplifying the matter, this is bound to bring in more chaos and confusion in the already complicated matter. Another example of administrative egotism ?