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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Oped in 'The Hindu' about the attitude of Ministry of Defence towards soldiers and veterans

A wonderfully articulated opinion authored by Ms Chander Suta Dogra, published in ‘The Hindu’ today :

Opinion / Oped
April 23, 2013

Chander Suta Dogra

The Defence Ministry’s stubborn refusal to implement orders of the Armed Forces Tribunal is creating disaffection among serving and retired personnel

Navindra Devi’s husband, Nk Rajpal Singh, wandered off from his Army unit in Bikaner, Rajasthan, while being treated for a psychiatric illness. His body was later found in a well. The unit showed him retrospectively on annual leave.

The Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) held the Army responsible for his death and awarded Navindra Devi special family pension with 10 per cent interest from the date of death and Rs10,00,000 as compensation. The order, passed on December 8, 2011, has still to be implemented.

Brig T.S. Sekhon had to undergo an emergency procedure on his heart while visiting Germany in 2008. He was refused reimbursement of medical bills by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) under the Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) on the grounds that there was no provision of reimbursement when a person undergoes treatment abroad. The AFT, based on a similar Supreme Court pronouncement, directed the ECHS to reimburse the amount at rates that the said procedure would have cost in India had the emergency happened here. The judgment, passed on February 28, 2011, remains unimplemented.

Almost four years after the AFT came into existence to provide an alternative judicial mechanism to serving and retired defence personnel of the Army, Navy and the Air Force for redressal of their grievances, it is becoming increasingly apparent that something is wrong with its functioning and administration. The AFT began functioning from August 2009.

That there is a conflict of interest in having the AFT under the administrative control of the MoD, against which most of the cases are directed, is only one of the problems. As reported in this newspaper on April 4, 2013, the MoD has treated AFT members, a mix of retired judges and senior retired army defence officers, to its largesse by ensuring them foreign trips and canteen cards, “with a view of influencing” them.


Presently, the MoD controls the funds and infrastructure of the AFT and also has a say in appointments, an increasingly questionable arrangement. The AFT is mandated to hear grievances relating to appointments and conditions of service, military commission and appeals against court martial.

At another level, the tendency of the MoD to appeal against most judgments of the AFT, even on issues settled by the Supreme Court and against the decisions taken by Army headquarters is leading to much disaffection. Many more are simply not implemented and appeals against them filed much after the mandated period. This is repeatedly being pointed out by ex-servicemen’s organisations and Army Headquarters, but with no let up.

One reason for this is that the AFT does not have power of civil contempt to enforce its judgments. Last month, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence recommended granting civil contempt to the AFT, a move stoutly opposed by the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare (DESW) within the MoD, leading many to take that as yet another piece of evidence of the latter’s “anti-defence sentiments.”

Already there is much resentment over the absence of any serving or retired defence officer in DESW, a department meant to deal with problems of veteran soldiers.

But first, this is what DESW had to say in its defence before the parliamentary panel regarding non-implementation of the decisions of the AFT. “Generally, all orders passed by the AFTs are implemented unless they are against the settled policies of the government.”


The Indian ex-servicemen movement reacted strongly to these pronouncements in a letter to the Defence Minister, saying that it appears the “DESW wants to make the AFT subservient to it and intends to treat it as another office of the MoD and not like a judicial body.” Court decisions are binding and have to be implemented unless there is a stay on their operation by a higher court.

A representative of the Ministry of Law lent weight to the allegation that relief granted by the AFT is almost always appealed against by the MoD. The representative told the parliamentary panel: “Against almost each and every matter the appeals are filed.” Not surprisingly, a commonly heard refrain within the defence fraternity is that “the DESW does everything except welfare of retired defence personnel particularly in respect of disabled soldiers and pensioners.”

Some recent actions of DESW in which it has reportedly ignored the instructions of the Defence Minister and protests by the Army substantiate these assertions. The most glaring example is that of Lt.Gen. Vijay Oberoi (retd.), a disabled soldier, on whose petition the Chandigarh bench of the AFT, in 2010 allowed broadbanding benefits to all disabled personnel irrespective of when they left service.

In March 2011, the Supreme Court in a similar case ruled that broadbanding benefits were to be provided to all disabled personnel and not just those who were invalided out, and dittoed it in another case in April 2011.

In August 2011, the Army headquarters and the Chief of Army Staff also directed that no further appeals were to be filed in such cases and that the judgments of the AFT and the Supreme Court implemented in favour of disabled personnel. However, in February 2012, DESW under the MoD appealed against the AFT’s judgment in Lt.Gen. Oberoi’s case.

In March 2012, the Defence Minister directed that no further appeals were to be filed in such cases till a final call is taken and that even the pending cases in the Supreme Court should not be argued by the government. However, in April and May 2012, the MoD/DESW filed more such appeals in similar matters.


Notwithstanding the growing demand to shift administrative control of the AFT from the MoD, the latter has been consistently opposing it.

In November 2012, the Punjab and Haryana High Court also directed that its control be transferred to the Ministry of Law and Justice.

The judgment quoted from an earlier Supreme Court ruling that has suggested that all departmental tribunals like the AFT, should be brought under a wholly independent agency to ensure that the independence of the members of the tribunals is maintained. A proposal to set up a Central Tribunal Division under the Ministry of Law is in the pipeline.

Besides the principal bench in Delhi, there are eight regional benches in Jaipur, Chandigarh, Lucknow, Guwahati, Kolkata, Chennai, Kochi and Mumbai. Together, these nine benches have 15 courts, each with a judicial member (a retired high court judge) and an administrative member (a retired general officer).


jdosvd said...

What is the point of these AFTs when their judgements virtually count for nothing......its sheer mockery of these AFTs.
By the way when will the pension arrears of pre-2006 pensioners come into their bank accounts?.....sigh

Yogi said...

Most important fact which emerges is that PM or Mr. Antony's writ does not run in the MoD. Remember PM had asked for a time bound report on NFFU and other matters last year, which is lying forgotten. Mr Antony approved outsourcing medicine delivery in ECHS but the order has been upturned by Finance Division. His directions to DESW to not to appeal in Lt Gen Oberoi's case have been ignored. Cheers to real rulers of India - the Bureaucrat!!

Anonymous said...

And we talk about INTEGRATED Ministry of Defence.
Appears to be disintegrated !

Unknown said...

Dear Maj NS,

A Govt can RULE its "CIVIL" population only if the LATTER are obedient to law.

WHEN THE WHOLE POPULATION BECOMES "CIVILLY DISOBEDIENT" led by an honest leader, the GOVT has no option than to beat retreat and hang its towel (Britishers quitting many Nations in their Empire.......)


POliticians come and go. They are not perpetua; rulers. They also change colours as they like....

Babudom remains.....They forget they also retire one day and join the pensioner ranks....

Nevertheless, for short term benefits/ liberties/ considerations , they appear to be willing to compromise on evrything.......

Otherwise, a newspaper like HINDU ---that too nowadays--- wd not have allowed this item to see the light of the day.

(Lobby is required.....)

Veteran Prabhjot SinghChhatwal Chhatwal said...

Dear all,
Pension arrears of Pre-2006 must be credited in your bank accounts latest by the end of this month otherwise you claim the interest on the said amount.

Anonymous said...

Maj NS and Mr.Natarajan Sir,

Thanks for dissipating the helplessness of political class and unimaginable / intolerable arrogance of Babudom.

We also will have to look forward for, some workable solution to fix the present mess, and propose available alternatives so as to regain the lost confidence of UPA 2 politicians holding important positions.

We may have to attract the attention of President/PM/RM/Soniyaji etc to be more assertive and authoritative while dealing with babu's notings in various files.

As for Defence and MoD is concerned, the present set up in DESW, right from Sec to junior most officer, needs to be replaced with suitable Veteran/Serving Officers. Half the clerical staff also be replaced accordingly, to inject sensibility and accountability in existing almost dead/defunct dept put under an IAS officer who has no clue of matter Military and their needs of welfare.

Same way if 50 percent officers in MoD replaced with Service Officers working under the IAS Def Secretary things would definitely improve.

PM and RM be apprised to depend more and more and respect the opinions and views offered by Service Chiefs and COSC, for matters Military and of National Security, babus will have their lessons learnt and fall in line with Politicians and Services.

But big question is, can we perceive all this to happen?

At this stage we can only propose, wait, watch and hope for some magical solutions for rejuvenation of our inefficient and stubborn 'Politico-Bureaucratic' nexus.

ramanan said...

Very Shameful. Serving and Ex-Soldiers are the least citizens of this so called Mother-Nation. Shame, Shame. In near future there wont be any pride to be serving or an ex-uniform personnel. Instead, their daughters, sisters or any one from the family of these personnel will surely be a filmy Celebrity. Still it is Good country and We love it !!!!

Anonymous said...

dear mr natrajan v,

almost every babu retires in hag+ scale with 60 yrs of service. a majority thereafter absorbed in some commission or association where his perks further increase.

when compared with armed forces officer, his retirement is late and with greater benefits.so his retirement is different than armed forces officers; retirement.

Anonymous said...

Major NS Gill.It is presumed that dignified babus in MOD are interested to appeal in cases decided by AFTs and huge amount is paid by govt to supreme court advocates in defending these cases to get percentage of fees like practices in civil. Layman can make out why these babus waste their lot of energy in drafting and filing appeals.It should be investigated by secret agency.

Wg Car MG singh said...

I am writing this from Au Dhabi. Frankly I am surprised that officers and men keep pleading to government for crumbs. With the army the only organized force holding India together, the COAS should be calling the shots. He however a large cat on which a bucket of water is thrown. The army and other sister top brass needs to be only blamed for crumbs not coming the army way

Anonymous said...

@Wing Cdr MGS, I think its not very far to happen, what you pray or perceive should have already happened. Gen VKS's last few months as COAS was a right time. Now nation will have to wait for following three things to happen simultaneously;
a. Some inefficient Govt with helpless coalition like upa 2 to be in power after 2014.
b. Height of highhandedness, one-up show and intolerable humiliation of Senior/Flag Officers including Chiefs, by the already psychosomatic bureaucracy.
c. A General, worth his salt, was borne to self respecting, fearless and non-greedy parents, happens to be senior most and takes over as COSC.

Conditions appear to be hypothetical but not completely impossible. Let us wait, watch and hope for some thing favorable to happen in the larger interest of our mighty nation and its democracy.

It is time nation tests the worth of these white elephants (IAS and IDSE etc) in MoD and allied Depts carrying the signboards of highest position, by deploying them to Sino-Indian border area, to seek supreme solutions available in their heads, regarding matters military during incursion. I am sure PLA of China will feel pity at us and
love to withdraw unconditionally, the moment they are exposed to the expertise of these babus suppose to be advising Service Chiefs, in the matters of Wars and Defence of the nation.

The National Prayer (should Be):

" Deshwasi Hatash Ho!! Fauj aur Faujiyoka Nash Ho!! Nayalayoka Apman Ho!! Desh ka Vinash Ho!! Babujika Jaighosh Ho!! Desh Rahe Ya Na Rahe-Lekin Babudom Amar Rahe!!!!"

'Jai Hind - Jai Babudom'.

Unknown said...

Dear Sir,
Thanks for such valuable informations given by you.I want to raise points before you about Hon Offrs. After a long dedicated service a JCO recd an honor of Honorary Lt/Capt but that is end on a honor only. After a long struggle my country became a Republ ic and independent state but up to now we are not leaving /forgetting the rules and regulations of my past rulers.We have not changed a single word in my thought. YES, my politicians has changed all those facts rules regulations for themselves by which they can get more and more.When they change their salary and pension in the parliament no one can imagine.Are their life are more valuable than a soldier who has past his life only to show dedication to his country.
Is the pension of an hon offr equivalent to Lt or Captain is enough? Why do they cant get facilities in canteen like an regular retd commissioned offr?IS it the reward of a tamga is enough?
Please think 12 bottles of liquor is only a facility which is same for both category.Was a JCO dedicated his life for 12 bottles of liquor ?
SHAME, SHAME SHAME my dear RM, FM, PM and Mahamahim Suprim commander of Forces.
Hon Captain S N Dubey

GURDIP said...

28 Apr 2013
IESM needs to make out a proposal to the PM and DM that at least 75% vacancies in Defence dept be filled up by resettling retiring clerical and officer cadre, IESM MUST give serious consideration and make repeated assertions till it is achieved¡


Article 14 Equality Before Law must be DELETED from Constitution as Major with one day substance promotion and major with 20 years 364 days commissioned service get equal pension of Rs.18205. What these I A S officers understand.They should be dropped at Daulat Beg Oldie and with full military haversack/tinned rations and then asked to come to Leh, Budhkharbu, Kargil Dras Gulmarg, Srinagar, Udhampur Jammu, Pathakot, Ludhian upto New Delhi by foot. Then they will only understand difference in length of service and draft pay/pension letters accordingly/correctly.