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 Legal advice/litigation related issues would strictly NOT be published or discussed or entertained.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

Friday, November 28, 2014

Maimed by the System eBook is now available on Google Play Books

My book, “Maimed by the System” is now available worldwide in electronic/eBook format on Google Play Books and can be bought at a discount from this link.

The book can be downloaded and viewed on all Android devices, ipad, iphone and also computing devices with the Chrome browser.

Of course, I would still recommend the hardcover version which is also available at a discount and free home delivery through a very easy process via Amazon India.

Yes, I want all of you to read the book!!!

It is a non-commercial project and part of the proceeds shall go into the welfare of disabled soldiers and widows. 

You can learn more about the book on www.Maimed.info

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Disability and Casualty pensionary awards further enhanced: orders issued for civilian pensioners and would be soon issued for defence pensioners

As many would recall, with effect from 01-01-2006, various forms of pensions were calculated and based on the minimum of the new pay bands introduced by the 6th Central Pay Commission rather than the minimum of pay for each separate grade/rank within the new pay bands according to the new fitment tables.

This controversy was ultimately resolved on judicial intervention and the Government ultimately relented and removed the anomaly, though only from September 2012 rather than January 2006 which was in fact the day of the inception of the said anomaly.

That matter went till the Supreme Court which was pleased to affirm the orders of the Delhi High Court which had in turn directed that the benefits were to flow from January 2006 and not from the artificial future date of September 2012. Even the Review and then the Curative Petitions filed by the Government against the decision of the Delhi High Court were later dismissed by the Supreme Court. Of course, the Government did not issue universal orders and has re-agitated the matter in the Supreme Court in many other cases.

Notwithstanding the controversy of revised arrears from January 2006 versus September 2012, another anomaly that persisted was that though the anomaly in the regular pension now stood rectified, the calculation of casualty pensionary awards was still being based upon the minimum of pay band rather than the minimum of pay within the pay band for each grade/rank.

The said anomaly has now been rectified with effect from September 2012 and orders have been issued for civilian pensioners ordaining that casualty pensionary awards shall also be based upon the minimum of pay within the pay band for each grade/rank according to the fitment tables rather than the minimum of the pay band itself.

Orders for defence pensioners are to be issued by the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare (DESW) of the Ministry of Defence and are expected soon since the financial clearance has already been accorded.

Friday, November 21, 2014

An open letter to the Defence Minister by an Indian Military Veteran in the United States (From StratPost)

A former Captain of the JAG department of the Indian Army, now in the US, has written an open letter to the Defence Minister which has been featured and published on StratPost.

Here is the text:

Dear Shri Manohar Parrikar,

I write to you today after attending Veterans Day celebrations in Washington DC on November 11, 2014, as a former Indian Army Veteran. I would rather prefer calling ex-servicemen as ‘Veterans’ without giving them a feeling of gender bias or being left out as the term ‘ex’ conveys.

Having served the Indian Army, given my youth to the nation and being a third-generation Army officer I am proud to say that the qualities of ‘guts and glory’ run in my blood.

With this open letter, I intend highlighting the fact as to how Veterans are respected and revered in the United States of America, which I never witnessed back home in my own country. This, I say with conviction after having a first-hand experience at various events, which reflect the honor meted out to the Veterans of the Armed Forces. The country and its citizens do not give any differential treatment to non-US Veterans like me. Rather the kind of attention and respect I have received here as a Veteran is applaudable.

The Veterans Day Celebrations made me feel how American citizens (including civilians) were proud of their soldiers who defend their borders. Each person who knew that I had served my nation came to appreciate my role and hugged me. I wonder why our Indian civilian population would not pay attention to the soldiers who have sacrificed their youth for India. The root cause for all this is that we do not glorify the important role of our Armed Forces in the World Wars and respective wars in the annals of history in the curriculum taught at school level.

Are our men and women in uniform only to be remembered for a short attention span? They are called only on occasions such as Republic Day and when in dire straits especially during natural calamities like floods, cyclones and earthquake for relief work. Not to mention the ‘aid to civil authority’ in times of domestic turmoil just because the local police and administrative authorities (the so called babus) could not handle the situation.

I would like to emphasize that USA has special programs and scholarships (yellow ribbon program) to encourage veterans to continue their higher studies. Please note that this scheme is alike for officers and troops. One such example is yours truly.

I am presently pursuing my Masters of Laws in a top ranking US Law School and the University has awarded me at par scholarship as a foreign veteran. There are various networking events and recruiting workshops that are conducted only for the veterans.

The US Veterans face the same myths of ‘irrelevant experience’ and ‘rigidity in thought and action’ while moving to the civilian world however the US government and its policies make the transition simpler. The US Department of Veterans Affairs and other authorities as well as universities make the Veterans’ ride smooth to move from the battlefield to the boardroom. US Companies receive tax benefits on hiring Veterans. It is pertinent to mention that US troops (not just officers) have been making a mark in the corporate arena by displaying their leadership qualities.

My concern at this point in time is that why our Armed Forces personnel are not glorified for their heroic acts. Our soldiers have been fighting in the toughest terrains possible in this world.

Why are the Veterans treated like a ‘burden’ by the serving officers and the Ministry of Defence? Why does a Veteran have to struggle to get his paltry sum of disability pension by resorting to long drawn and expensive litigation doing rounds of Armed Forces Tribunal and higher Courts? Why are the majority of appeals filed by the Ministry of Defence in the Supreme Court against their own disabled soldiers and old pensioners? Why are you- the decision makers, shielded and insulated from the real problems suffered by the veteran stakeholders and made to sign on the dotted line wherever the military or civilian bureaucracy wants resulting in unilateral decisions which are forcibly imposed?

Why do you not directly get to hear the authentic voice of the Veterans and the problems that they are facing? Why is the status of military personnel on a constant decline in the official pecking order? Why are there not enough continuing legal programs for our soldiers except the antiquated vocational courses of Director General of Resettlement? Why is the Kendriya Sainik Board not being pro-active on policies on Veterans? Is showing an agenda on paper enough?

I say this not as a disgruntled Veteran but as a responsible former officer of Judge Advocate General’s Department who has served in the Integrated Headquarters of Ministry of Defence and worked with these institutions closely.

May I also remind you that your party in its manifesto had promised minimizing appeals against soldiers with respect to the rulings rendered in their favor by judicial bodies, an issue which was also strongly raised by Ms Smriti Irani when she was in opposition, however sadly nothing seems to have moved in that direction, there being not even an iota of change in the attitude of the Ministry in the said regard.

I request you, as the new Defence Minister, to implement progressive policies for all Armed Forces personnel (not just officers but also the troops) and Veterans of the three Forces.

As for the Indian citizens to look up in awe towards the Indian soldier and appreciate the role of Armed Forces at all times, this change in attitude and thought has to be instilled in the minds of the younger generation by highlighting the glory of the Forces. This is also the reason for the low rate of selections in the Armed Forces in the past few years at the Commissioned Officer level.

My country has the third largest Army (and an equally capable Air Force and Navy), that craves for attention and respect for the valour it has shown over the ages.

It is for you to take a call on this Raksha Mantri Ji, it is for you to ensure that Indian Military Veterans like me command respect and dignity in my own country too, just as we do, ironically, in other democracies.

Loveleen Kaur Mann
Former Captain, Judge Advocate General’s Department
Indian Army


Loveleen Kaur Mann is a former JAG officer of the Indian Army. She has conducted various Courts-martial independently and handled critical litigation on behalf of Union of India before the Armed Forces Tribunal and Supreme Court of India. Currently she is pursuing her International Legal Studies LLM at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington DC. She is majoring in War Crimes and International Criminal Procedure. She has been nominated as the Global Teaching Fellow 2015 and will focus on Laws of Terrorism and Asylum.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Supreme Court overturns decision of Armed Forces Tribunal whereby disability pension was denied to a soldier and endorses the link between domestic commitments vis-a-vis military service leading to aggravation of psychiatric disorders

Readers of this blog would be aware that umpteen number of times the connection between domestic factors and military service leading to an effect on the psychological health of soldiers has been raised by me to which our system seems oblivious. Besides other posts, the issue has been discussed threadbare in this post dated 30 May 2013 and more recently in this op-ed on StratPost dated 15 May 2014, the following lines of which address the issue:

Rules promulgated by the Government state that if the cause of the disability cannot be identified, then disability pension is to be granted to the individual by taking the disability as attributable to service, but in practice, in such cases disability pension admissibility is rejected by stating that pension cannot be awarded since the ‘cause is unknown’ or that the disease is a ‘constitutional disease’. Psychiatric disabilities, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and even worrying trends of suicides and fratricide are being ignored and mostly being wrongly linked to ‘domestic reasons’ thereby obliterating a connection with military service so as to keep negative propaganda at bay, rather than looking within. But this approach is not only a disservice to our soldiers but also cowardly whereby eyes are closed to an issue which should engage us and which has a direct link with military life.

A soldier spends most of his service life in his unit and away from his family, blaming such occurrences on ‘domestic reasons’ may be the easy way out to escape responsibility but hardly moral, ethical or legal. And then there are certain provisions that our commanders, doctors and even those deciding entitlements sitting in tall towers in Delhi are unaware of. A succinct example would be, that as per rules, even suicides are to be declared as ‘attributable to military service’ if the occurrence is in a high altitude or isolated area, and this has been the rule position since 1937 when the British codified this aspect. But why would anybody want to go deep and study such issues, scratching the surface is much easier, even if it leads to deleterious consequences to the entitlements of our soldiers and their widows.

To deny benefits, at times it is remarked that such disabilities may also have arisen had the particular person not been in the Army. Very well. Here is a person who is 24 hours and 365 days on call under a stern disciplinary code, mostly away from family, in a strictly regimented routine, retires in his 30s, and can he be simplistically compared with say a civilian employee who goes to office at 9 in the morning to return at 5, five days a week, lives with his family in his hometown, enjoys holidays, retires at 60?. It shouldn’t take an expert to reply in the negative.

While a solider is away on military duty, wouldn’t common ailments such as hypertension or heart diseases or seizures or psychiatric disabilities or psychosomatic disorders get aggravated by even seemingly insignificant incidents at the home-front like admissions or non-performance of children in educational institutions, minor property disputes, lack of care of aged parents and family back home, insensitivity of civil administration and the like?

Thankfully, this reality has found favour with the Supreme Court in a recently pronounced decision in a case where a schizophrenic solider, K Srinivasa Reddy, had challenged the verdict of the Chennai Bench of Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) which had rejected his plea for disability pension on the pretext that the disability had been declared ‘neither attributable to, nor aggravated by service’ by a military medical board. Most importantly, while setting aside the order of the AFT, the Supreme Court has in effect observed in its decision that aggravation is bound to occur in such situations since soldiers are torn between their domestic commitments and call of duty. The Supreme Court has once again reiterated that a disability is to be presumed as having been caused due to service conditions as also provided under the rules unless the medical board assigns reasons as to how the disability was such that it could not be detected at the time of acceptance into service. Of course, our medical boards or the locally and crudely produced Guide to Medical Officers (Military Pensions) which takes no notice of what medical research has gone into its publication, cannot override what is provided under the rules promulgated by the Government of India which duly favour such disabled soldiers.

This brings me to yet another aspect. Forget about negative findings, even when medical boards return a positive finding of attributability or aggravation favouring our soldiers, the Services HQ are administratively terming many disabilities as ‘neither attributable/nor aggravated’. Of course, this is contemptuous since the Supreme Court had way back in 1993 held that once a medical board was in favour of an individual, the declaration of attributability/aggravation could not be overturned by administrative authorities. The reason being put across by the Services HQ is that officers of the Defence Accounts Department (DAD) do not agree to grant of disability pension in many cases even if the medical board is in favour of an officer/soldier. This attitude however is highly objectionable since most of the committees and bodies handling the grant of disability pension are headed by senior service officers and officers of the DAD are merely individual members of such committees. In case, if it is the DAD which is to prevail, then the question arises that what is the use of having such multi-member committees at all? or what is the purpose of having senior serving military officers as the heads of such committees? Instead we can then just have a single member committee consisting of one officer of the DAD who can deal with the futures of our thousands of disabled troops with the nameplate ‘GOD’ placed outside his or her office! 

What is more valuable or binding on us? Rules and decisions of our Apex Court and the agony of our soldiers OR the personal opinion of one junior member of a sarkari committee who can illegally dictate his or her terms to the seniormost uniformed officers who blindly fall in line?

Think. Introspect. Look within.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A great first step: Standing Committee on Welfare of Ex-Servicemen constituted on the lines of Standing Committee on Voluntary Agencies (SCOVA)

As regular readers would be aware, we have been pointing out that the single biggest impediment in resolution and rationalisation of problems related to military veterans was that the stakeholders did not have a say in decision-making and that senior bureaucrats and the highest of political executive were isolated and insulated from the voice of the veteran community by a regressive coterie of junior level bureaucracy that had grown a tangle of roots within the Ministry of Defence as also the Army HQ. Most problems emanated from this situation since veterans did not have the ear of the decision-makers and decisions were taken behind curtains unilaterally and based on incorrect and sometimes fabricated inputs. This was in sharp contrast to the civil side wherein the Department of Pension and Pensioners’’ Welfare (DoPPW) played a proactive and sensitive role for the welfare of their pensioners in conjunction with the system of the Standing Committee on Voluntary Agencies (SCOVA).

In the last SCOVA meeting under the DoPPW, attended by their Minister of State, Dr Jitendra Singh, this problem was emphatically pointed out, especially by Col Hari Handa, the President of Disabled War Veterans, India (DIWAVE) as was also placed on this blog on 14 September 2014.

Those efforts and Dr Jitendra Singh’s strong directions to the Ministry of Defence have borne fruit and a Standing Committee on Welfare of Ex-Servicemen has been constituted which would hold meetings every quarter. The Committee would be chaired by the Rajya Raksha Mantri (RRM) and would also have on it non-official members comprising veteran organisations and official members such as Secretary, Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare, CGDA, DGR, MD ECHS and Secretary KSB. There shall be scope for special invitees too, including representatives of Veterans’ Cells of the three services.

A great and welcome new step by the new Government. Hopefully the momentum shall continue.