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 Legal advice/litigation related issues would strictly NOT be published or discussed or entertained.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, September 30, 2014

Consolidated reports and reviews on my new book “Maimed by the System”

Thanks to everyone, my latest book “Maimed by the System” has been well received.

Needless to state, I would like all of you to read and own the book since the aim of authoring it was to enlighten the populace on the travails, problems and issues facing military veterans and their families.

The book can be procured through an easy process at a discount and free home delivery, including through Cash on Delivery option, from Amazon India by clicking here. It is a non-commercial project and part of its proceeds shall be used for the welfare of disabled soldiers and military widows.

If you are not comfortable in using the online process, or if you have an Army Postal Office or Post Box/Post Bag address, then you can follow the traditional process the details of which are available by clicking here.

More information on the book is available on its exclusive website www.Maimed.Info

Consolidated reports on the book are as follows:

Thursday, September 25, 2014

In a landmark decision on Tribunalisation, the Supreme Court has struck down the formation of the National Tax Tribunal

In a landmark decision on Tribunalisation comprising 270 pages, stressing upon independence of judicial functioning in a democracy, a 5 Member Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has struck down the National Tax Tribunal Act, 2005, and hence struck down the inception of the National Tax Tribunal which was to be constituted by the Central Government.

On this blog, I have, in the past, authored opeds and opinions on the pitfalls of Tribunalisation and the same can be accessed here and here. The decision on a Public Interest Litigation filed by me regarding lack of independence of Tribunals has been challenged by the Central Government and is pending before the Apex Court.

Though the existence, continuance, nature and constitution of the existing Tribunals would have to be tested on the touchstone of today’s decision, following are the star points expressed by the Bench in the decision:

That Tribunals would only perform a supplemental role and not a substitutional role. The power of judicial review of the High Court under Articles 226 and 227 can never be ousted.

That Members of Tribunals should have no administrative dealings with the Govt.

That only a person possessing professional qualification in law, with substantial experience in the practice of law, will be in a position to handle the onerous responsibilities which a Chairperson and Members have to shoulder.

That it is not possible for the Court to accept that Technical Members have the stature and qualification possessed by Judges of High Courts.

That it is not possible to accept that a party to a litigation (the Central Government in the case of Tribunals) can participate in the selection process, whereby the Chairperson and Members of such adjudicatory body are selected.

That re-appointment provisions undermine the fairness and independence of Members.

The gratitude of the public in this aspect must go to the Madras Bar Association and their counsel, Mr Arvind Datar, for continually taking up threats to our judicial independence head on and to a logical conclusion.

Law marches on. 

Post Note: And while we are at it, I would recommend readers interested in the subject to peruse this detailed oped rendered by Justice JS Narang of the Punjab & Haryana High Court on the subject of Tribunalisation published in 'The Law' magazine earlier this year. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Different retirement ages for Time Scale and Selection Grade Ranks in the Air Force are discriminatory: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court in a landmark decision today has upheld the order of the Armed Forces Tribunal wherein the discriminatory policy of different retirement ages for the ranks of Group Captain (Time Scale) vis-a-vis Group Captain (Selection Grade) was held illegal and struck down.

The Supreme Court has dismissed the appeal filed by the Ministry of Defence and the Air Force against similarly placed officers led by Gp Capt Atul Shukla, and has concluded the following in strong words:

Suffice it to say that the basis for classification in question for purposes of age of superannuation which the appellant has projected is much too tenuous to be accepted as a valid basis for giving to the Time Scale Officers a treatment different from the one given to the Select Officers.

We are also of the view that concerns arising from a parity in the retirement age of Time Scale and Select Officers too are more perceptional than real. At any rate, such concerns remain to be substantiated on the basis of any empirical data. The upshot of the above discussion is that the classification made by the Government of India for purposes of different retirement age for Time Scale Officers and Select Officers does not stand scrutiny on the touchstone of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution as rightly held by the Tribunal.

The above closes another yet long tumultuous journey of affected officers. In fact, once the decision was rendered by the AFT, the Air HQ should have taken up a case with the Govt for rationalising the policy rather than unnecessarily challenging it before the Apex Court.

It is high time that litigation against own employees is considered on the touchstone of logic and equity rather than indulging in ego-fuelled appeals. It is time for the political executive to take a call on this and trample on the vicious cycle of luxurious litigation without accountability. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Times of India on “Maimed by the System”

The Times of India has today published a detailed report on my new book “Maimed by the System”.

More information on the book is available on the exclusive website www.Maimed.info

The Times of India report can be accessed by clicking here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My new book “Maimed by the System” released: Purchase Information and Reports

My fourth book, “Maimed by the System” has been released by General VP Malik (Retd), former Chief of the Army Staff.

The book is a hardcover collection of real life accounts of defence personnel, military veterans, disabled soldiers and their kin who were wronged by the system but fought and successfully claimed their rights and dues. These are unique real stories of such individuals who had to put up difficult and protracted battles with the officialdom, something they were clearly unprepared for, to claim their basic rights post disability, post battle and many posthumously. Besides the stories, the book also contains some of my selected published works. The book is dedicated to India’s Constitutional Courts, especially the Delhi and the Punjab & Haryana High Courts for standing by the men and women in uniform. It is hope and triumph that the book embodies, not despair. Rather than evoke disdain for the system, the book should act as a lesson and a mirror for all of us towards a foundation of positivity and compassion.

The foreword has been penned by Mr Eugene Fidell, the First President of the National Institute of Military Justice of the United States of America.

The release ceremony was unlike the usual book releases and the humbling evening was rendered even more interesting with the informal conversation and interaction with guests and the media.

Part of the proceeds of this non-commercial project shall be used for the welfare of disabled soldiers and military widows.

You can support the book by buying it from Amazon India by clicking here. They are offering an exclusive deal and free delivery. They are also offering gift wrap facility for gifting the book. The purchase process on Amazon is simple and they are offering the 'Cash on Delivery' method also. 

The book has been published by Chandigarh based Shree Ram Law House, legal/law publishers established in 1991. Information for those who are unable to buy the book online and for bulk orders, and more on the contents of the book can be accessed from the exclusive website www.Maimed.info

Some reports and reviews:

Jai Hind

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Standing Committee on Voluntary Agencies (SCOVA): Some positive noises

The Meeting of the Standing Committee on Voluntary Agencies is a regular feature under the aegis of the Department of Pension & Pensioners’ Welfare (DoPPW). The positive outlook of the DoPPW has been discussed on this blog earlier, here and here.

This time, the meeting was chaired by Minister of State, Dr Jitendra Singh. It is quite heartening to note that there were some very positive vibes from the Minister and the overall set-up regarding welfare of military veterans. Amongst others, the meeting was also attended by Col HN Handa, the President of DIWAVE (Disabled War Veterans, India) and Gp Capt Sethi of the AFA.

When brought to the knowledge of the Minister that unlike DoPPW, the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare (DESW) did not hold any consultations with stakeholders and decided most issues unilaterally, the Minister directed the DESW representative to inform the Secretary DESW to hold regular consultative meetings with veterans and be more proactive.

When the Defence Accounts Department informed that according to them, out of 18.5 lac pre-2006 defence pensioners, fresh PPOs had been issued for 14.11 pensioners, the Minister was apprised that the figures seemed incorrect.

The Defence Accounts Department was also advised to increase the frequency of Lok Adalats in smaller cities.

The DESW representative was also questioned about the non-issuance of orders for some pending pensionary matters wherein disability pensionary anomalies of civilian pensioners emanating out of the 5th Pay Commission that had been resolved in early 2000s for them have still not been resolved for military pensioners. And this despite the fact that the DoPPW had written way back in 2010 to the DESW asking them to rectify the anomalies. On this, the representative of the DESW said that the draft letter had already been sent to the competent authority for approval and the orders were expected soon.

Most departments have a dedicated day for resolving grievances of pensioners and also have a dedicated officer dealing with such issues. On a request for the same, the DESW had replied to the DoPPW that PCDA(P) was the nodal authority for defence pensioners and they could visit the said office in Allahabad. The DESW expressed its inability to fix a day and time in the DESW for this purpose and stated that the Secretary DESW had been meeting representatives of veterans quite frequently to redress grievances. On this the veterans informed the Minister that it was not acceptable for veterans to visit Allahabad for resolution of their issues and that neither the Secretary calls veterans for any meetings nor was the Department proactive in resolving issues or communicating the progress of the same.

It was also informed that the proposal for enhancement of disability and war injury benefits based on fitment tables rather than minimum of pay bands was also under consideration.

On being informed that the DESW had closed the case concerning the demand of enhanced family pensionary benefits to widows of war disabled soldiers, the Minister directed that the file would not be closed. DIWAVE also demanded that they be consulted before taking decisions on such matters.

Thanks to Col Handa, Gp Capt Sethi and all other veterans for putting across the points concerning military veterans to the Minister of State.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The release of my next book: Maimed by the System

I am happy to announce that my next book titled Maimed by the System would be released in the very near future.

The book shall be released during the course of this month and would be made available online also.

For information about the book and queries on ordering/pre-ordering the same, you may want to access the dedicated website www.Maimed.Info

Thank you for your eternal support. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Unfortunate rumour-mongering about 7th Central Pay Commission’s visit to Ladakh

There were messages doing the rounds to the effect that Members of the 7th CPC are visiting Ladakh not for the purposes of analysing the conditions under which our men and women in uniform are deployed, but to enjoy a picnic at Pangong Tso lake at tax payers’ expense.

These messages are patently incorrect, malicious and unfortunate. Members of Pay Commission would, in fact, be visiting Siachen, Kargil, Mushkoh Valley, Chushul and Leh.

Similar whispers are at times heard about officers in the military hierarchy manning key positions related to pay, personnel and pensionary issues, including the pay commission cells of the three services. That too is demoralising.

Such rumours not only spread discontentment but also antagonize people who are working day and night for the betterment of serving personnel and veterans. Though change is the only constant and there is requirement of transformation of attitude at various ends, it can be said with great responsibility that the current military leadership and key appointments are extremely sensitised and sensitive towards the needs, requirements and aspirations of the military community and there is a consequent responsibility imposed on all of us to lend support to move towards the ultimate aim of betterment rather than creating an environment of negativity, that too based on a foundation of gossip.

Here is the official statement released by the Army on the subject of the visit of Members of 7th CPC to Ladakh:

We have noticed a number of malicious and ill informed comments being circulated on Social Media with regard to the visit of Justice Mathur, Chairman, 7th Central Pay Commission and other members of the Commission to Ladakh.
The Army wishes to clarify that Justice Mathur, Chairman, 7th Central Pay Commission and other members of the Commission are taking out very valuable time from their busy schedule to visit forward areas where our soldiers are serving in extremely difficult terrain, at our request.
Justice Mathur and members of the Commission would be visiting the Northern Glacier (Siachen), Kargil, Mushkoh Valley, Chushul apart from Leh, where they would be staying with various Army Detachments.

We are grateful to the 7 Pay Commission Team for personally experiencing the difficulties being faced by Army deployed in Ladakh.

On a lighter note though, I do feel we should not be so servile so as to thank Members of the Commission for “taking out very valuable time from their busy schedule”, since that my friends is their duty for what they are paid for and appointed, and not a favour extended to the society at large.