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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Disability/Casualty Awards revised with arrears from 01 Jan 2006 rather than 24 Sept 2012, by the Department of Pension & Pensioners’ Welfare, expect orders for defence pensioners soon

In July last year, the Central Government had issued orders revising the pensions of central govt pensioners after removal of the anomaly of ‘minimum of pay band’ versus ‘minimum of pay within the pay band’ from 01-01-2006 rather than the artificial future cut-off date of 24-09-2012. This was based on the decision of various High Courts as affirmed by the Supreme Court. This was followed by orders by the Ministry of Defence for military pensioners in September.

The parallel rates for disability and casualty awards however had not been revised by the Central Government w.e.f 01-01-2006 and the file had remained pending with the Ministry of Finance.

The orders have now been issued by the Department of Pension & Pensioners’ Welfare (DoPPW) and all disability and death related benefits now stand revised from 01-01-2006 rather than 24-09-2012 and arrears shall be released for the period 01-01-2006 till 23-09-2012 to all affected retirees. The orders can be downloaded by clicking here

The DoPPW is the nodal ministry for issuance of such orders and similar orders would now be notified by the Railways and the MoD after suitable amendments, for their own retirees/family pensioners in due course. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Rumours on military promotion boards, and then some....

The Tribune has today reported that the defence minister, while addressing senior military commanders, has clarified that he had not passed any instructions for some sort of civilian oversight in military promotion boards as rumoured.

If it is true that the Minister has made this statement, then I am glad on this proactive step of clearing the air since this was a regrettable rumour doing the rounds and which was also unfortunately bought by many (otherwise well meaning) senior retired veterans. It had been incorrectly stated that the Minister had passed directions that civilian officers shall be members of promotion boards of the defence services.

The truth is totally the opposite and the rumour has other origins. In fact, the issue had not even emanated from the Minister or his office and relates to the Committee of Experts constituted by the Government, of which even I was one of the Members.

Within the military environment, there are murmurs regarding lack of transparency in selection boards. Some may call it perceived, some may label it real, but a fact that cannot be ignored is that there has been a spurt in complaints related to this aspect. To counter this, the Ministry of Defence came up with the suggestion of a civilian member in promotion boards of the defence services. This recommendation was deliberated by the ibid Committee of Experts specifically constituted to look into ways of reducing litigation and improving redressal of grievances, and ultimately the said proposal of the Ministry was REJECTED. Instead, we recommended the strengthening of the existing system of observers by providing that out of the total observers, two could be from sister services or even civilians (not Civil Servants) to alleviate any negative perception. Hence the rumours were wrong on various levels- Firstly, there were no such directions from the Minister, in fact, the Minister did not interfere at all with the Panel and rather wanted us to be totally objective and truthful. Secondly, the proposal was initiated due to constant complaints by serving officers of the defence services and not by the Ministry on its own volition. Thirdly, the said proposal was rejected and we did not agree with the Ministry. Fourthly, the system of observers already exists and the ultimate recommendation was to continue with the same with the minor change as above and without any voting rights.  

I sincerely feel that attempts should be made to verify facts before floating messages which have the propensity to damage institutions and cause disaffection. Also, ultimately the military must, and would have to, yield to transparency which is a pertinent need in this time and age, except in operational and strategic matters, to counterbalance both sides of the spectrum and offset misgivings. We would be indulging in the greatest disservice if we close our eyes and rationalize or attempt to justify that all is well. Since apparently there is nothing to hide, measures of openness should rather be welcomed. A closed non-dynamic system resting on the supposedly ‘time-tested’ past laurels may ultimately be counterproductive. There is no right or wrong in many of such issues and it is the duty of all stakeholders to ensure objectivity and lower the levels of dissatisfaction. Of course, for that, we need to have an unbolted mind and not react negatively to every hint of a wind of change. As Kennedy once addressed, “conformity is the jailer of freedom and enemy of growth”.

I hope we can rise to the occasion and become mature enough to debate the merits and demerits of adjustments and readjustments in the existing dispensation with the openness it deserves

Monday, April 11, 2016

Independence and objectivity of thought and action

An interesting article by Tim Dunne on Military Justice in Canada (Military Justice, past its “best-before” date) was published in Frontline Defence.

While referring to Justice LeSage’s ‘independent review’ of the system of military justice, the author states the following regarding the inputs made available to the Justice and then asks a very pertinent question:

“...In his foreword, Justice LeSage noted the cadre of professionals who provided “valuable comments, recommendations and observations that have helped […] shape the content of the Report. That list includes Colonel Patrick K. Gleeson (Deputy Judge Advocate General/Chief of Staff); Colonel Michael Gibson (Deputy Judge Advocate General – Military Justice); and numerous other members of JAG, who undertook “the considerable challenge of educating me, regarding the military justice system.” He also added Major Patrick Vermette (Directorate of Law – Military Justice – Strategic) “who shepherded us through all the base visits, was unwavering in his patience, courtesy, and providing me with invaluable information and guidance throughout this process.”
This begs the question, with so much participation by Judge Advocate General legal staff in educating Justice LeSage, just how independent was his “independent review”?
Sadly missing from the list of educators and advisors is an advocate for the sailors, the soldiers and the air force personnel whose lives are so profoundly affected by the National Defence Act...”
Why I have reproduced the above is because the same reminds me of the praise showered by the Seventh Central Pay Commission in its foreword on a member of the Indian Defence Accounts Service for his intricate knowledge of defence financial matters which helped the commission in “determining the pay structure for the defence services”.

And what about those who were affected, those who were at the receiving end?


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Biggest news of 2016 for Central Government pensioners

Most readers would be aware that the orders regarding calculation of pension of pre-2006 retirees based on minimum of pay within the pay band for each separate grade/rank and not on minimum of the pay band itself, with arrears from 01-01-2006 rather than 24-09-2012, were issued for Central Government pensioners in July 2015 by the Government as per the decision of the Delhi High Court, which essentially followed a decision of the Punjab & Haryana High Court, and then upheld by the Supreme Court. The High Court had held that the anomaly (though later removed by the Government itself from 24-09-2012) had to be removed from the date of the inception of the anomaly, that is, 01-01-2006. Similar orders were later issued by the Ministry of Defence.

On a similar analogy, many decisions by various Benches of the Central Administrative Tribunal (and then upheld by the High Courts) were rendered de-linking the service requirement of 33 years for grant of full pension for pre-2006 retirees at par with post-2006 retirees for whom there is no such requirement. Some Special Leave Petitions preferred by the Government against such orders were also dismissed, though not by way of detailed decisions. The Punjab  Haryana High Court had also passed a detailed verdict on the same subject for pensioners of the Central Armed Police Forces. Till date, the pensions of pre-2006 pensioners with less than 33 years of service (including weightage) were being calculated by way of proportionate reduction.

Through this earlier post dated 22-01-2016, in view of multiple queries in this regard, I had informed by way of general information that the matter of issuance of orders on this subject for similarly placed retirees was being examined by the Department of Pensions & Pensioners’ Welfare, Ministry of Law & Justice and Ministry of Finance.

The Department of Pensions and Pensioners’ Welfare has now issued universal orders giving effect to the judicial decisions of the High Courts and has removed the requirement of 33 years service for full pension. Now, irrespective of length of service, all pre-2006 pensioners shall be eligible for full pension as is admissible to those pre-2006 pensioners who had rendered 33 years or more service including weightage. Full arrears are also admissible with effect from 01-01-2006. The biggest gainers would be voluntary retirees and those released from service on medical grounds or before completing full service. The orders can be downloaded by clicking here. Similar orders should now be issued for defence pensioners also by the Ministry of Defence.

A word of caution- This change would not affect the concept of One Rank One Pension (OROP) applicable with effect from 2014 since while this development is based on 50% of minimum emoluments introduced by the 6th Central Pay Commission for each grade, the concept of OROP is based on live data of actual pension based on real time emoluments as per length of service of in-service personnel. Readers are hence requested not to mix up the two dispensations which operate by way of separate dynamics. 

We must again place on record extreme gratitude to the Department of Pensions and Pensioners’ Welfare functioning under Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions which has once again taken a stand for all Central Government pensioners and ensured issuance of universal directions just on simple dismissal of a Special Leave Petition by the Supreme Court even without a detailed order. One cannot also help but compare this with the attitude of the Ministry of Defence which continues to file appeals against its pensioners and disabled pensioners based on artificial distinctions even when the law has been fully settled by the Supreme Court in a plethora of detailed landmark decisions and which also militates against the grain of the opinion expressed by the highest of political executive, including the Prime Minister. I however maintain and retain full hope that the current Raksha Mantri would be able to rein in the unruly horses.  

Jai Hind.