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Monday, October 29, 2012

Status Hit : Specific focus required

Though the implementation of the 6th Central Pay Commission recommendations in its final form, even after undergoing surgical changes through various committees and groups, resulted in degradation of status of military ranks in the official pecking order, what is more glaring is the fact that some organizations are not even willing to follow the Grade Pay parity postulated by the concept of Grade Pay after the 6th CPC and are flouting all laid down parameters, equivalencies and parities to impunity. In fact, military officers are being placed below even State Government officers with similar Grade Pay in certain organizations.

The scheme of things in these three set-ups requires the immediate attention of the Services Headquarters without fail:

A. Ministry of External Affairs : As fully discussed in an earlier blogpost, military officers with Grade Pay of Rs 8900 are being clubbed with other Central and State Government officers with Rs 8700 Grade Pay and military officers with Grade Pay Rs 8700 are being clubbed with other officers with Grade Pay of Rs 7600 in our missions abroad. This not only has a direct fall out on military status but also on allowances admissible on foreign shores. There was even a situation where a civilian junior serving under a military officer in a mixed organization in India became the latter’s senior when both of them went on deputation to the same organization under the Ministry of External Affairs.

B. Cabinet Secretariat : Even in certain appointments of the Cabinet Secretariat, a skewed equation for deputation and absorption is being followed wherein the actual status and even Grade Pay have been given a complete go-bye. A Commandant of the Coast Guard serving under a Captain of the Indian Navy thus becomes the latter’s superior if both of them opt for deputation to the Cabinet Secretariat on certain appointments at the same time.

C. Pubic Enterprises : For appointments at the level of Grade Pay Rs 8700, officers of the rank of Brigadier (Rs 8900) are being sought by the Public Enterprises Selection Board. Officers of the rank of Colonel (Grade Pay Rs 8700) are being appointed on appointments carrying the Grade Pay of Rs 7600. An immediate case needs to be taken up by the Services for this long standing anomaly. A recent advertisement reflecting the above can be accessed here. 

D. Survey of India : In recent selections for secondment, throwing all statutory rules providing for protection of seniority to the winds, officers of the rank of Major have been absorbed on posts carrying the Grade Pay of Rs 5400, that is equivalent to a Lieutenant of the Army. This despite the fact that the protection of seniority, status and Grade Pay was promised to military officers before the selections were made.

All such issues need to be taken up on case to case basis otherwise we should brace ourselves for a further slide after the 7th CPC. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

1986 Supreme Court judgement on commutation of pension : Please do not spread rumours leading to chaos

Mailboxes are full of angry mails by pensioners lamenting that the Supreme Court had rendered a judgement in the year 1986 directing the government to restore the commuted value of pension in 13 years rather than 15 years and that the govt had still not taken steps to implement the said judgement. Some have even suggested that contempt petitions should be filed in this regard and that the govt should be taken to task.

This is totally incorrect.

The judgement of the Supreme Court has been fully implemented and is being totally misinterpreted since it nowhere states that the commutation would take place in 13 years rather than 15 years.

The issue being addressed by the Supreme Court was that commuted pension was not being restored by the Central government and many State governments. With the intervention of the Apex Court the matter was resolved and the system of restoration of pension was introduced.

The govt however had sought to bring about a distinction between civil and defence pensioners which the Supreme Court disapproved and ordered that the rules applicable to civilian pensioners would be extended to defence pensioners too.

Thereafter, the Central Government fully implemented the judgement as a result of which full pensions are being restored.

The controversy of restoration at 13 years was brought into fore in the past too by ambiguously pressing into service the concept of weightage and parts of the pension regulations but the matter was again put to rest by a Division Bench of the Punjab & Haryana High Court in its judgement rendered in the year 2009 which can be downloaded by clicking here. The modalities of the issue have been again discussed fully and in detail in the ibid judgement.

To put it succinctly, the Supreme Court judgement in the Common Cause case of 1986 stands fully implemented by the government. Veterans are requested to kindly ignore mails, tables and unwieldy technical details floating around.

By floating imaginary amounts and the like, anger and frustration is being unnecessarily fanned which serves no purpose. Senior veterans should act responsibly before jumping the gun since this leads to a sense of hopelessness and despair even when it is not justified. This also provides a handle to anti-military elements to show the defence community in an imbalanced and unsteady light, which, most should agree, is a path less than desirable. 

Please do not send me individual mails on the subject. Whatever needs to be stated, discussed or clarified may kindly be placed in the comments section of this post. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

First signs of acceptance of basing pension on ‘minimum of pay within the pay-band’ on the civil side

As regular readers are aware, as far as commissioned officers of the defence services are concerned, the Cabinet has already approved the formula that pension would now be calculated based on the minimum of pay within the pay-band based on fitment tables rather than the minimum of the pay-band itself. This is in line with what had been directed by the Armed Forces Tribunal. It’s another matter that as always the Defence Ministry has challenged the orders of the AFT before the Supreme Court where the matter is pending as of now.

Similarly, for civilian pensioners, the Principal Bench of the Central Administrative Tribunal had passed analogous directions which the Government had challenged before the Delhi High Court.

However, the first signs of extension of similar benefits to civilian pensioners and thereby acceptance of the principles laid down by the CAT were visible in the 21st meeting of Standing Committee of Voluntary Agencies (SCOVA) held on 27 Sep 2012 under the aegis of Department of Pension and Pensioners’ Welfare (DoPPW) wherein the committee was informed that the agenda point was being treated as closed since the Govt was taking appropriate action in the direction of basing pension and family pension @ 50% and 30% respectively based on the minimum of pay within the pay-band.

The above becomes clear from a perusal of Serial No 3 (&12) of the Action Taken Report as reflected in the minutes of the meeting that can be accessed by clicking here.

The only pertinent issue that remains to be seen is whether the Govt ultimately agrees to release the benefits w.e.f 01 Jan 2006 rather than Aug 2012 as has been signified after the Cabinet meeting.  

Friday, October 5, 2012

Proactive action by the Department of Personnel & Training : Definition of ‘Ex-Serviceman’ revised, ambiguities ironed out, categories expanded, proactive decisions taken

The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) functioning under the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, has again proved its pro-public and proactive approach.

All ambiguities emanating from the last revision of the definition of ‘Ex-Serviceman’ (as provided in the rules of 1979 last majorly amended in 1987) have been attempted to be rectified.

On a first glance, the following are the apparent changes:

(a)The new notification covers aspects of all level of posts, that is, Group A, B, C and D.

(b)Those released on reduction of establishment are also now covered.

(c)Territorial Army pensioners of both categories, that is, those who earn pension after continuous service or in broken spells, would be covered.

(d)All gallantry awardees covered.

(e)Boarded out recruits in receipt of disability pension covered.

(f)Adjustment and modalities of reservation vis-à-vis other reserved categories fully explained and specified.

(g)Age relaxation for all levels of posts specified unambiguously including for Competitive Examinations.

Though one major apparent slip-up that appears visible from the notification is that while personnel released with ‘attributable’ disabilities have been mentioned in the notification, those released with ‘aggravated’ disabilities have not been mentioned. Although in the case of personnel of the Army Postal Service (APS), both attributable and aggravated categories have been specifically mentioned. Perhaps the Services and the Ministry of Defence need to take this up immediately with the DoPT.

An earlier post on this blog on the definition of ‘Ex-Serviceman’ through the ages can be accessed by clicking here. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Govt of India implements the landmark orders of the Gujarat High Court in a PIL filed by the late General Aurora

It was on 23 December 2011 that the Hon’ble Gujarat High Court rendered a landmark judgement in a Writ Petition filed by the late Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Aurora and others in the year 1999.

Besides other reliefs that were sought, the case was filed by the late General praying that the Govt may be directed to treat all missing Prisoners of War (POWs) as “on duty” for all intents and purposes till their date of retirement. It was also prayed that the Union of India be directed to take up the issue of the missing personnel with the International Human Rights Committee.

The High Court, through a very detailed and extensive order, which at places recorded bone chilling details on the subject alongwith all related evidence on the matter, directed the Union of India to approach the International Court of Justice in this regard and also to pay all retirement and service benefits to the kin of the missing personnel as if they had retired on superannuation.

The detailed judgement on the writ petition which was ordered to be treated as a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), not only traced the entire length and breadth of the issue but also dealt with accounts of individual cases.

The Ministry of Defence, though has challenged before the Supreme Court the part of the order which dealt with directions to the Govt to take up the case with the ICJ, has however implemented the other part which dealt with treating the missing personnel on duty and releasing benefits to the kin as if they (the missing personnel) remained on duty till their respective dates of retirement.

The Defence Ministry has already forwarded the order for implementation to the Services HQ who in turn have asked the respective Record Offices to immediately take requisite steps.