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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Op-ed/Analysis for DNA: Raksha Mantri kindles hope

 My op-ed/analysis for the DNA:

Beyond the ‘machine’- Hope from the new 
Raksha Mantri

Navdeep Singh

The appointment of Nirmala Sitharaman as the Raksha Mantri was welcomed by all. Though a lot has been said about the procurement of the machine, not much thought is spared for the men and women behind that machine.

Beyond issues such as acquisition that appear glamorous for the world to write upon, it is also the human capital, personnel policies and mechanisms of redressal of grievances under the Ministry of Defence and the military which require focus, and these, softly put, need a refit. The last full time Raksha Mantri, Mr Manohar Parrikar, made genuine efforts in taming this unruly horse and there is no doubt Ms Sitharaman, known to be a hardworking, upright and sensitised personality, would now carry the work forward. Sensing opportunity at the non-availability of the political executive at the helm after Parrikar’s departure, the system had reverted back to its much cherished status quoist attitude. Mr Parrikar had constituted independent Committees of Experts comprising apolitical specialists rendering pro bono inputs, of one this author too was a part, to look into long pending issues plaguing the Ministry and the military, but despite the acceptance of many important and path-breaking recommendations, the Ministry is yet to issue implementation instructions.

Let us enumerate a few issues requiring attention.

At one time, not so much in the past, more than ninety percent of appeals pending in the Supreme Court filed by the Ministry of Defence pertained to challenges to disability benefits granted by Courts and Tribunals to disabled soldiers. Most of the other litigation also comprises pensionary issues pertaining to old soldiers and military widows. Strange are the ways of the Ministry which challenges orders of Courts at times amounting to a few hundred rupees of benefits to disabled soldiers till the highest court of the land despite the law being well settled by Constitutional Courts. In fact, stress and strain of military service is universally known to aggravate even regular medical conditions such as hypertension and heart disease thereby adversely affecting the health profile and longevity of soldiers and the same is also recognized by the applicable rules. But accountants and financial authorities of the Ministry feel that soldiers should not be compensated for their health conditions since many such disabilities occur in civil life too. What they however forget in the bargain is that living away from the family for most part of the year, inability to attend to domestic commitments, a highly regimented lifestyle with curbs on freedoms that other citizens take for granted, are aspects unique to the military, and which, even by the admission of successive Raksha Mantris, lead to additional stress and strain. This Ministry must be the only one where consecutive Supreme Court decisions on the subject, rules, directions of Ministers, opinions of apex military medical bodies, recommendations of High Level Committees et al have had no effect and the show is run by a motley crew of accountants, financial wizards and mischief by certain file-noting initiators.

Personnel Policies
Along with pensionary policies, the personnel stratagems of the military also need a revisit. Though over past few years the rigidity of thought in the military has shown a decline and it has become less inward looking, a humungous task lies ahead to improve satisfaction level in this very important department. Affected parties need to be consulted in policy-making after a holistic and scientific analysis and these cannot be imposed in a ham-handed manner based on the whims or opinions of a select few. Such an approach has led to massive litigation, discontentment and administrative chaos in the past which then reflects upon the working relationship of the various cogs in the wheel. Similarly, the military needs to look within and acquire a more open, pragmatic, fair and progressive approach in grievance redressal. It’s an open secret that most of the serious representations (statutory and non-statutory complaints) are not decided within the prescribed period of 6 months unless strings are pulled. In a primitive system, the decision makers seek comments on such representations from those very authorities who are complained against. The recommendations of the Committee of Experts for faster redressal and an opportunity of hearing or personal interaction of the aggrieved party with the competent authority before taking the decision and also for making the process objective by decentralizing certain power centres, were accepted in principle by the Raksha Mantri in August 2016 with directions to issue implementation instructions in 45 days, but the files have been put in such an orbit that the execution till date remains elusive.

Decision Making
With an incisive mind now occupying the chair, one would also expect a more balanced decision-making process. Having dealt with it closely, this author would suggest that the higher bureaucracy and political executive must not blindly rely on any developing coterie or one-way file notings since the same are drafted in a manner so as to extract a particular kind of response- the kind of response that the file initiator in the lower bureaucracy wants. Hence, the decision making process needs to be collegiate wherein inputs and views of all are taken in a real-time manner and wherein those who have commented upon a particular issue on file can be confronted by stakeholders. Also, it is very much necessary to interact with the affected parties in important administrative, personnel, welfare and pension related subjects to have a well-rounded view.

The Raksha Mantri has given hope to many. Interestingly, the situation today is that while the Minister at the helm of this large Ministry remains accessible and replies to emails and tweets, just the opposite attitude is at display at the lower but cutting edge public-dealing level. The biggest positive change that many like us would perceive and hope for in the near future is that the system would now run as per the will of the political executive and not the short-sighted personal opinion of someone wielding a damaging pen, sitting in a non descript corner in the South Block. 

Major Navdeep Singh is a lawyer at the Punjab & Haryana High Court and was the founding President of the Armed Forces Tribunal Bar Association. He writes on issues related to law, military and public policy. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Another important letter issued today for pension and disability benefits of Pre 2016 retirees

Close on the heels of the two letters issued yesterday, another letter has been issued by the Ministry of Defence for Pre-2016 retirees with regard to their pensionary and disability benefits.

The salient features of the same:

(a) Notional fixation as per the first formula recommended by the 7th Central Pay Commission has been implemented as was done for civilian retirees in May 2017. For a few rare cases, this notional fixation may result in pension being upwardly revised even higher the figures arrived at existing levels, that is, higher than OROP Pension X 2.57. The pensioner however shall be entitled to receive the higher of the two. Detailed modalities would only be discernible once the full fledged concordance tables are issued. To refresh, the revision under this formula shall be undertaken by notionally fixing the pay in the pay matrix recommended by the 7th CPC in the level corresponding to the pay in the pay scale/pay band and grade pay at which such pensioners had retired (for pension) or died (for family pension). This will be done by notional pay fixation under each intervening Pay Commission based on the formula for revision of pay.

(b) The controversy of non-counting of X Group Pay for pensionary purposes has been resolved. In fact the resolution of the same was also evident in the letters issued yesterday.

(c) Pension calculation for disability benefits restored at percentage basis at par with civilians.

(d) Broadbanding/Rounding-off of disability/war-injury element for all disabled soldiers, irrespective of manner of exit, granted but only for 7th CPC regime w.e.f 01-01-2016. The period from 01-01-1996 till 31-12-2015 under the 5th and 6th CPCs shall hence continue to be governed by decisions of Courts as before while the period from 01-01-2016 shall be governed by the 7th CPC letter. There is hence still status quo on the legal position for the period governed by 5th and 6th CPCs. We shall hence again request the Government for grant of the broadbanding benefits of 5th and 6th CPC to all affected personnel as decided by the Supreme Court in KJS Buttar and Davinder Singh cases.

(e) The anomaly of non grant of old age pension to disability and war injury pensioners of the Pre 2016 category stands resolved.

(f)   Notional fixation of old retirees has been explained in Paragraphs 6 to 8 of the letter.

The above letter issued today, that is, 05 Sept 2017, can be accessed and downloaded by clicking here. 

Thank You. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Fresh Disability, War Injury and other Casualty Awards letters issued for Pre and Post 2016 retirees

The much awaited orders on casualty (disability) awards have been issued after resolution by the Anomalies Committee.

Salient features-

For Pre-2016 pensioners:

(a)  Disability and War Injury awards have been restored to the formula as applicable to civilians. The rate shall now be revised to Old Award as admissible on 31-12-2015 (under enhanced OROP rates based on the percentage formula applicable at that time) X 2.57 with effect from 01-01-2016.

(b)  Orders for notional percentage based calculations with fresh 7th Central Pay Commission scales as the backdrop, not yet issued.

For Post-2016 pensioners:

(a)  Broadbanding/rounding-off made applicable to all cases of disability/war injury pension with effect from 01-01-2016 but only to post-2016 retirees (hence as of now, status quo continues with respect to the legal position for Pre-2016 retirees).

(b)  The percentage based rules for calculation of disability/war injury/other casualty awards shall remain the same (percentage based) as were applicable prior to 2016.

(c)  Additional old age pension on attaining the age of 80 or above restored for disability and war injury pensioners (however, the same has not yet been restored for Pre-2016 retirees). Readers may recall, this confusion and anomaly emanated due to a slip up by the military pay cells.

Both letters can be downloaded and accessed here:

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Supreme Court takes cognizance of a Petition challenging the new rules for Tribunals and also excessive tribunalisation at the cost of the regular judiciary

The Supreme Court has issued notice to the Central Government on a Writ Petition filed by me challenging the new rules promulgated for all tribunals by the Government and also seeking reform of the various tribunals in the country and a roadmap to check excessive tribunalisation.

A report by Bar & Bench is appended below:

The Supreme Court today issued notice to the central government in a writ petition filed by (Punjab & Haryana High Court) Advocate and founder President of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) Bar Association Navdeep Singh, seeking striking down of the recently promulgated rules for Tribunals.
The matter came up for hearing today before a Bench of Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justices Dipak Misra and DY Chandrachud.
The petition, citing the example of the AFT, states that the tribunal has been placed under the complete hold of the Ministry of Defence, which is the first opposite party in every litigation before the AFT. It further adds that the Defence Secretary has been made a part of the selection and reappointment committee for appointing members of the tribunal, thereby making the primary litigant select its own adjudicators.
It also states that the Centre has notified the Rules despite orders of the Punjab & Haryana High Court to the contrary, on which there was no stay by the Supreme Court. The petition further challenges the clause decreasing the tenure of members and lowering their status and a new provision allowing them to take up government employment after retirement from the tribunal, which was prohibited till now.
More importantly, the petition states that while promulgating the Rules, the officers concerned have acted diametrically opposite to the views of the political executive since even the Prime Minister and the Law Minister had made statements favouring reform and independence of tribunals. The petition states that the real reason behind tribunalisation was “not to reduce pendency, but to create post-retirement havens and tacitly and slowly encroach upon the traditional jurisdiction of real Courts, including issues of personal, individual and civil rights”.
Calling out the myth of reduction of pendency, the petition points out an example of defence related cases, which have increased from 9000 to 16000 after creation of the AFT.
Moreover, work in tribunals comes to a complete halt due to non-appointment of members. The petition states that the stress upon ‘expertise’ in tribunals is overemphasized since “judicial opinion is through assistance from both sides of the dispute through counsel or through expert opinions, and for the same, the expert need not sit as an adjudicator which can result in subjectivity and over-familiarity rather than a dispassionate and detached approach”.
It has also sought a roadmap for reforming tribunals and returning certain jurisdictions back to the regular courts. The petition has also questioned why the regular judiciary was not being strengthened rather than excessive tribunalisation. The Petition has averred that in case a lack of expertise is perceived, then specialized courts such as Commercial Courts should be incepted within the regular judiciary. Alternatively, a system of more stable rosters must be effectuated in Courts, in line with the expertise and aptitude of judges.
The Petition has also sought judicial review over tribunal decisions in Division Benches of High Courts as held by a Constitution Bench in L Chandrakumar’s case, rather than the inaccessible and unaffordable appeals provided from some tribunals directly to the Supreme Court.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Pay Rules issued for Commissioned Officers of the Military Nursing Service

The Pay Rules for Commissioned Officers of the Military Nursing Service (MNS) have been promulgated today and can be downloaded by clicking here. These are in consequence to approval of the scales as per the 7th Central Pay Commission. 

The Rules had to be issued separately since the pay scales of MNS are different than regular Civil and Military employees.

Many legal issues related to the MNS are pending resolution with the Government and the Armed Forces and it is fully hoped that the matter is finally settled with an open mind and full participation and satisfaction of all stakeholders so as to promote a sense of belongingness and cohesion in the military medical setup. 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Concordance tables issued for pre-2016 pensioners of all grades as per the new pension fixation formula

Recently, orders were issued for revision of pension based on the ‘notional fixation’ formula which was different than the 2.57 multiple dispensation. The said orders were discussed here on this blog on 12 May 2017 wherein it was informed that the revision shall be undertaken by notionally fixing the pay in the pay matrix recommended by the 7th CPC in the level corresponding to the pay in the pay scale/pay band and grade pay at which such pensioners had retired (for pension) or died (for family pension). This was to be undertaken by notional pay fixation under each intervening Pay Commission based on the Formula for revision of pay.

The above formula was quite confusing for those who do not have deep knowledge about pay scales of the past Pay Commissions.

The Government has hence issued concordance tables for each rank/grade/scale today to make things easier for pensioners. The same can be downloaded and accessed by clicking here.

Similar tables for defence pensioners shall be issued by the Ministry of Defence separately. The formula which results in the higher payout of pension shall be applicable. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

A reluctant step, but an important and landmark step nevertheless by the Ministry of Defence for Disabled Soldiers probably ending the dark era of en masse appeals against disabled soldiers

As regular readers would be aware, the issue of declaring disabilities of soldiers as “Neither Attributable to, Nor Aggravated By Military Service” (popularly known as NANA cases) has been a vexed one. While the rules on attributability and aggravation are quite liberal, their interpretation has been literal, leading to denial of disability and special family pensionary benefits to disabled soldiers and families of soldiers who die due to some disability while in service.

Despite several judgements by the Supreme Court, High Courts as also followed by various Benches of the Armed Forces Tribunal, benefits were denied to such disabled soldiers, and on the contrary, multiple appeals were filed against favourable verdicts rendered by Courts.

Besides other issues, this issue was also deliberated upon and discussed in detail in Paragraph 2.2.1 of the Report of the Committee of Experts constituted by the then Raksha Mantri on directions of the Prime Minister, for reducing litigation involving the Ministry of Defence and strengthening the mechanisms for redressal of grievances, of which I too was a Member. The following were the recommendations of the Committee to this end:

In view of the foregoing, the Committee notes and recommends the following:
(a) According to rules, as also endorsed by the Supreme Court, a benefit of doubt regarding ‘attributability/aggravation’ or ‘service-connection’ needs to be granted to any disability arising during service [See Paragraph 32 of Dharamvir Vs Union of India (supra), Paragraphs 15 & 16 of Union of India Vs Rajbir (supra)]. The same however can be denied when it is shown that the disability is due to a person’s own gross misconduct or negligence, illegal activity, substance abuse or intoxication. The same is also a universally acceptable norm in all democracies [See Rule 105 of US Code 38 (supra)]. The same benefit is also admissible in ‘death’ cases due to in-service disabilities leading to entitlement of Special Family Pension for families. The said proposition is also agreeable to all stakeholders including the medical side with the apex medical body, the MSAC, also on board.
(b)  There is no linkage with ‘peace’ or ‘field’ service as far as attributability of disabilities is concerned and any such differentiation locally put across by the office of DGAFMS in the past or professed by any other authority is illegal, contrary to Entitlement Rules, contemptuous towards decisions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court and also against Regulations for Medical Services in the Armed Forces (See Para 33 of Dharamvir Singh Vs Union of India and Regulation 423 of RMSAF). So for example, if a soldier develops Heart Disease while in service, the benefit of doubt needs to be extended to ‘service-connection’ and the claim need not be rejected on grounds such as ‘served in peace area’ or ‘cause unknown’. The claim can only be rejected in case of a note of disability at the time of entry into service or reasons such as ‘heavy smoking’ or ‘lack of dietary control leading to obesity and heart disease’ are recorded, if applicable. Otherwise, the presumption operates in favour of soldiers, as per rules and as held by the Supreme Court.
(c)  Broadly blaming domestic reasons for psychiatric disabilities arising during military service is against common knowledge and unethical since domestic reasons are bound to give rise to stress and also to aggravate the same in soldiers because of the very fact that due to military service they remain away from their families most of the year and cannot hence cope up with all familial requirements efficiently by virtue of their being absent from home. Putting the blame on ‘domestic reasons’ not only gives out a message that the organisation is simply washing its hands off the responsibility towards such soldiers but also results in denial of pensionary benefits to such affected soldiers and their families. The issue already stands addressed in K Srinivasa Reddy Vs Union of India (supra) and also explained in detail in the preceding paragraphs by us. The said principles and causative factors of stress also stand endorsed by way of DO letters written to Chief Ministers by successive Raksha Mantris, which of course has also not resulted in desirable results and needs renewed efforts.
(d) All concerned agencies should realize that non-grant of “attributability” or “aggravation” on flimsy grounds results in denial of pensionary benefits and consequently denial of a life of basic dignity to disabled soldiers. While it may be just a casual stroke of a pen for a medical board, it may be a question of survival for a soldier or his family. The exercise needs to be undertaken in a common-sense oriented, practical, liberal and scientific manner. Guidelines, if any, may not operate in derogation of actual rules and need to move with the times as per global norms based on scientific studies. The lack of transparency in past amendments in the “Guide to Medical Officers (Military Pensions)” wherein the said amendments do not even carry the footnote of the study or the basis leading to the change/amendment is highly avoidable and so is the tendency not to honestly reproduce the actual rules in the said guide and eliminating important parts such as the erstwhile Para 47 of the 2002 version which has vanished without trace and without reasoning and the spirit of which needs to be restored. All authorities, including Medical Boards shall decide attributability/aggravation on a case to case basis as per law laid down by the Supreme Court based on the interpretation of actual rules and ground realities of the inherent stress and strain of military life, rather than the mathematical guidelines of the Guide to Medical Officers or locally issued instructions and DO letters written to medical boards.
(e) Cases of feigning of disabilities where none exist should be dealt with strongly and medical boards should also be extra careful in examining cases where individuals have reported with a medical condition just prior to retirement or release.
(f) The current approach shows that despite clear cut law laid down by the Supreme Court and also the spirit of the rules, there is resistance in accepting the settled legal position based on hyper-technical hairsplitting reasons. The concerned authorities must accept gracefully and with all humility the law laid down by the Apex Court and come to terms to the same since an approach of resistance is not only against law but also at odds with global practices for disabilities incurred during military service.
(g) It is further recommended that henceforth in medical boards, all disabilities arising in service may be broadly dealt with on the anvil of the above practical realities, all appeals pending against such disabled soldiers filed in the Supreme Court be withdrawn immediately and pending or future litigation in Courts and Tribunals related to past cases of disabled soldiers may be dealt with by Government lawyers in judicial fora on the basis of Supreme Court decisions as above, except in cases of gross misconduct, negligence, substance abuse or intoxication, on a case to case basis. Needless to state, the same principles also apply to deaths while in service.

Based on the position as above, the Ministry of Defence has finally issued a policy letter for implementation of Court orders granting disability pension to disabled soldiers, which can be downloaded and accessed by clicking here. While the Ministry has fully accepted judicial dicta as emphasized in the above recommendation, what is strange is that in Paragraph 3 of the said policy, though the Defence Services Headquarters have been asked to implement Court orders and also grant absolute sanctions while implementing the same (as against Conditional sanctions pending appeal, as was the case in the past), the Ministry has still not shown a large heart as far as withdrawal of the pending appeals are concerned, and on the contrary, rather than asking the Defence Services to withdraw the said appeals, the Ministry states that ‘absolute sanctions’ be issued on dismissal of the appeals already pending in the Supreme Court. The question arises that when the recommendations of the Committee are unambiguous on the subject and so is the law declared by Constitutional Courts, why should the pending appeals be pursued till ‘dismissed’, and why not simply withdrawn with full humility?

These are questions to which there are no answers. Notwithstanding this, we should stay positive since not only will this ensure a faster implementation of Court orders related to disability pension, it also, in all probability, marks the closure of a dark era of en masse appeals against disabled soldiers, and I am sure the remaining issues shall also be ironed out soon.

Must place on record my gratitude to Mr Manohar Parrikar for initiating these reforms leading us to a better today

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Cabinet decisions on allowances of Government Employees: To be paid with effect from 01 July 2017 (UPDATED)

Here is a gist of today’s major cabinet decisions for allowances of Central Government employees based on recommendations of the 7th Central Pay Commission, in layperson terms:

1. Total number of allowances decreased from 197 to 128. To be paid with effect from 01 July 2017.

2. An additional Cell for Siachen introduced in the Risk and Hardship Matrix. The amount enhanced to Rs 42,500 for Officers and Rs 30,000 for ranks other than Commissioned Officers. The rates recommended by the 7th CPC were Rs 31,500 and Rs 21,000 respectively.

3. HRA rates decreased to 24%, 16% and 8% for X, Y and Z cities respectively. However the rates to go up to 27%, 18% and 9% and then 30%, 20% and 10% whenever the rates of DA touch 25% and 50% respectively. The HRA would however remain protected at 30%, 20% and 10% for the lowest possible pay under the Government and would not hence be less than Rs 5400, Rs 3600 and Rs 1800 for any employee.

4. Newly proposed Dress Allowance to be paid @Rs 5000, 10,000, 15,000 and 20,000 per year to employees of various categories. This subsumes all other uniform related allowances.

5. Ration Money Allowance (RMA) not abolished but will be paid directly with the salary in lieu of actual rations to officers posted in peace. Will update readers once there is more clarity on this issue.

6. Facility of One additional Railway Warrant extended to CAPFs and Coast Guard.

7. Field Area Allowances to be regulated @Rs 6,000-16,900. Counter Insurgency Allowance also at the same rates.

8. MARCOS and Chariot Allowance to Marine Commandos and also COBRA Allowance to CRPF personnel in Naxal areas to be granted @Rs 17,300-25,000.

9. Flying allowance @Rs17,300 to 25,000, also extended to BSF’s Air Wing.

10. Deputation Duty Allowance ceiling for defence personnel increased from ₹2000 - ₹4500 per month to ₹4500 - ₹9000 per month.

11. Fixed Medical Allowance for pensioners increased to Rs 1000 per month and Constant Attendant Allowance increased to Rs 6,750.

The Gazette notification for all allowances has been published on 06 July 2017 and is available here

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Justice at last for PSU absorbees who had opted for 1/3rd pro-rata pension: Government implements decision of the Madras High Court for payment of 100% pension, as affirmed by the Supreme Court, for all similarly placed employees

On dismissal of the SLP filed by the Central Government against the judgement of the Madras High Court, the Department of Pension and Pensioners’ Welfare of the Government of India has issued orders for all similarly placed employees finally undoing more than four decades of patent injustice.

In the 1970s, Government employees who opted to join Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) or autonomous bodies were made entitled to a payment of lumpsum amount in lieu of pension that had accrued from their Government Service. In terms of Rule 37-A of the Central Civil Service (Pension) Rules, 1972 (added in 1973), an employee was entitled to a lump sum amount not exceeding the commuted value of one-third of the pension and terminal benefit equal to twice the aforesaid lump-sum amount, subject to the condition that the Government servant surrendered his right of drawing two-thirds of his pension.

Later, on the directions of the Supreme Court, orders were issued to restore 1/3rd pension after the period of commutation culminated.

An employee however approached the Central Administrative Tribunal stating therein that even the rest of the 2/3rd portion needed to be restored on culmination of the period of commutation since the undertaking taken under Rule 37-A was in contravention to provisions of Section 12 of the Pension Act, 1871, which provided that a person could not be made to wish away his right to pension by any authority. The petition filed by the employee was however dismissed by the Tribunal.

The order of the Tribunal was then challenged by the employee, K Ganesan, in the Madras High Court, which ruled in his favour and held  that the undertaking taken from the employee was repugnant of the Pensions Act and the 2/3rd commuted amount also needed to be restored after expiry of the period of commutation. The Madras High Court directed the Government to do the needful and set aside the order of the Tribunal. The High Court also observed that the earlier decisions of the Supreme Court were not on this point and neither were the provisions of the Pensions Act brought to the knowledge of the Supreme Court. The High Court however refused to grant interest on the arrears in view of the major delay in challenging the provisions of the Rules by the employee.

The Central Government thereafter went into appeal to the Supreme Court but the SLP was dismissed in 2016. The Government thereafter filed a Review which was also dismissed in March 2017.

The Government has now issued orders implementing the decision for all similarly placed employees thereby directing the release of 100% pension from the date of culmination of the period of 15 years from commutation. As a result, all such PSU/Autonomous bodies absorbees shall be entitled to 100% restoration of pension on the date of completion of 15 years from the date of commutation. All such employees would now be entitled to full arrears from the 4th, 5th, 6th and the 7th Pay Commissions, as the case may be.

Again, this case shows as to how the above proactive approach of the Department of Pension & Pensioners’Welfare is in contrast with the approach of Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare under the Ministry of Defence. While even single-liner judgements and orders of the High Courts and the Supreme Court are implemented across the board for all similarly placed employees/pensioners by the former, the latter does not even implement decisions for specific petitioners unless multiple litigation is indulged in, including contempt and execution applications. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Penury Grant enhanced to Rs 4000 per month from the existing Rs 1000

In a progressive move, the Government has enhanced the rate of the monthly Penury Grant to Rs 4000 from the existing Rs 1000 which had remained constant since the year 2011.

The Penury Grant is payable to those ex-servicemen and widows who are living in a state of penury and are not in receipt of pension from any source. The recipient has to be over the age of 65 years to be eligible.

It may be recalled that earlier a one-time grant at the rate of Rs 30,000 was granted to needy veterans and their widows and the system was then changed in the year 2011 to a monthly payout of Rs 1000.

Most of the ex-servicemen affected by the grant are those who were released without any pension on reduction of establishment or for other reasons without completion of minimum pensionable service.

The payout of this scheme is through the Armed Forces Flag Day Fund.

The new letter issued by the Government today can be accessed by clicking here.

Friday, May 19, 2017

After decades of judicial pronouncements, disability benefits finally made admissible by the Government to pre-2006 voluntary retirees with effect from 01 January 2006

The Government has finally given effect to judicial pronouncements whereby cases of premature retirement and personnel ‘discharged at own request’ were held eligible to disability and war injury benefits.

Earlier, as per regulations, disabled and war injured retirees were not allowed disability and war injury benefits if they had sought retirement on their own volition. This practice was held to be illegal by the Delhi and the Punjab & Haryana High Courts. Later when a Government letter was issued by the Ministry of Defence entitling such personnel to benefits, it was made applicable only to those who had retired after 01-01-2006. This cut-off date was also held illegal by the Armed Forces Tribunal later. The Punjab & Haryana High Court had also endorsed the action of the Tribunal. Later, the Chandigarh Bench of the Tribunal had taken the official establishment to task for not giving effect to judicial dicta.

A Committee of Experts constituted by the then Raksha Mantri, Mr Manohar Parrikar, had also strongly recommended the resolution of the issue and the recommendation on the said point was accepted by the Minister.

The letter resolving the matter has finally been issued by the Ministry of Defence and can be downloaded and accessed by clicking here.

The benefits have been made applicable with financial effect from 01 January 2006 and to all cases where the disability was declared attributable to, or aggravated by military service.

This settles one of the most important issues concerning our disabled veterans.

There is however one problem still existing in the dispensation wherein the letter again only talks about ‘disability element’ and not ‘disability pension’ which consists of both elements, that is, service element as well as disability element. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Orders for “Notional Pension Fixation Formula” under the 7th Pay Commission regime, as approved by the Cabinet, issued

As all are aware, the 7th Central Pay Commission (CPC) had recommended two formulae for calculation of pension of pre-2016 retirees. While the first formula involved calculation of pension based on a notional basis, the second involved the multiplication of old 6th CPC pension X 2.57. The orders for the second formula were issued earlier and the first formula was recently accepted with certain modifications by the Cabinet.

The Government of India has today issued orders for calculating pension based on the first formula for civil pensioners who retired prior to 2016 and similar orders for defence pensioners shall be issued separately since military pensions involve certain additional complexities as compared to civilians. Pensioners shall be entitled to receive the higher pension out of the two formulae.

The revision shall be undertaken by notionally fixing the pay in the pay matrix recommended by the 7th CPC in the level corresponding to the pay in the pay scale/pay band and grade pay at which such pensioners had retired (for pension) or died (for family pension). This will be done by notional pay fixation under each intervening Pay Commission based on the Formula for revision of pay.

The pension under the new dispensation shall also be allowed from 01-01-2016.

The new orders can be accessed and downloaded by clicking here.

Again, please DO NOT mail me individual queries on email or social media. You are free to discuss the above @ the comments section of this post.

Thank You.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Clarifications and update on the Cabinet decisions on pay and pensionary issues emanating out of the 7th Central Pay Commission

There is a press note floating around on social media regarding certain decisions taken by the Cabinet related to pay and pensionary modalities related to the 7th Central Pay Commission (CPC). Though many have questioned its veracity, this is to confirm that it is absolutely a valid document and has been officially issued by the Ministry of Finance.

That said, let me run through some of the important decisions taken by the Cabinet, clarifications thereon and their impact. Please note that the new Pay Rules issued by the Ministry of Defence do not take into account the changes in the pay structure or removal of anomalies and these shall be incorporated through separate amendments in the rules issued on 03 May 2017.

Restoration of Percentage based Disability Pension Rates
The 7th CPC had recommended ‘flat/slab’ rates of disability pension for the defence services rather than the ones based upon ‘percentage of pay’. Civil disabled personnel were however retained on the percentage system as before. As stated earlier, frankly, I never expected this regressive 7th CPC recommendation to be accepted by the Government, but unfortunately it was. While recommending this aspect, the 7th CPC had also made unfounded and uncharitable remarks against disabled soldiers by casting aspersions on those who have incurred disabilities while in service which was discussed in detail by me earlier in my opeds, here and here. This resulted in a massive decrease after the 7th CPC resulting in a payout even lower than 6th CPC rates for almost all post-2016 retirees of all ranks and also for pre-2016 retirees of certain ranks. The arbitrariness of this decision becomes evident from the following chart at the apex levels:

(100% Disability)
Rates under the 6th CPC as on 31 Dec 2015
Rates applicable after the 7th CPC as on 01 Jan 2016
Lt Gen
Rs 52,560
Rs 27,000
Head of Central Armed Police Force
Rs 52,560
Rs 67,500

This issue was much close to my heart. Thankfully, the then Defence Minister, Mr Manohar Parrikar, fully understood the consequences and took personal interest in getting the matter referred to an Anomaly Committee. The Defence Services HQ as well as the Ministry, and even civilian employee organisations, supported the resolution of this anomaly which now stands addressed and the Cabinet has decided to retain the old system of calculation on percentage basis, that is, 30% of pay shall remain the disability element for 100% disability. I however do hope that a protection clause is introduced for pre-2016 retirees of lower ranks who stood to gain from the slab rates.

Improvement in Pension calculation system for pre-2016 civil and defence retirees
The Cabinet has also accepted an improvement over and above the system of pension calculation which was finally effectuated after the 7th CPC. Rather than basing the pensionary calculations on the “Old Pension X 2.57” formula, an option would be provided to calculate the pension based upon the notional pay stage from which the employee had retired as opposed to the minimum of pay as was the system followed till the 6th CPC. Calculation of pension in this manner would definitely enhance the pension of civil pensioners and perhaps a small number of defence pensioners, who, in all probability would be provided the opportunity of choosing the most beneficial option, that is, the new formula, 2.57 multiplication formula or OROP rates. Contrary to popular perception, this does not exactly result in OROP for pre-2016 civil employees as is being projected, since while this is based on notional data, the military OROP is operated on live date of fresh retirees, moreover while this system is expected to be revised only after ten years, the military OROP as per the current scheme is meant to be revised after every five years.

Issuance of Pay Rules rather than Instructions on Pay
There were messages in circulation that the Chiefs of the Defence Services have been sidelined and downgraded since the earlier system of issuance of Special Army Instructions, Special Navy Instructions and Special Air Force Instructions (SAI/SNI/SAFI) has been discontinued and a new dispensation of ‘Pay Rules’ has been initiated. This seems to be an extreme case of over-interpretation and negative imagination of fertile minds. SAI/SNI/SAFI were never issued under the authority of the Chiefs or the Defence Services HQ but were always issued by the Ministry of Defence, that is, the Government of India. ‘Orders’ such as Army Orders (AO) etc were (and are) issued by the Defence Services HQ under the power of the Chiefs. The new Pay Rules have been promulgated under the authority of Article 309 of the Constitution of India and are statutory in character rather than being mere executive instructions like was the case till now. With this, the pay rules of the Defence Services are at par with the statutory pay rules of the civil services which are also issued under the authority of Article 309 of the Constitution of India.

Defence Pay Matrix to have 40 stages
The 7th CPC had recommended only 24 stages in the defence matrix while 40 stages were provided to civilians. This anomaly has been rectified and now the defence pay matrix shall also have 40 stages. This will particularly be helpful for JCOs towards the retiring years and will also beneficially affect their pension and other retiral benefits.

Multiplication factor of 2.67
This anomaly had been rectified earlier for Brigadiers and a multiplication factor of 2.67 had been applied for the said rank. Now the benefit of multiplication for Index of Rationalization (operative at the beginning of the entry pay) has also been extended to Lieutenant Colonels, Directors to Government of India and Colonels, that is, Levels 12A and 13 of the Pay Matrix. Further, just to clarify, this multiplication factor has no link with pensions whatsoever. 

Other Anomalies
There shall be pay protection for the amount of Military Service Pay (MSP) on promotion from the rank of Brigadier to Major General. It may be recalled that MSP is not entitled to ranks above the rank of Brigadier. No decision has been taken by the Government on the aspect of Non Functional Upgradation till now since the matter is being considered sub judice. On directions of the Supreme Court, the Government is re-considering the issue of NFU for Central Armed Police Forces for which a meeting was recently held. The issue is to be considered by the Government and the fresh decision is to be placed before the Supreme Court in August 2017. The most pertinent anomaly of enhancement of Military Service Pay, especially for JCOs, also remains pending along with other matters and probably these issues would be clearer after various anomaly committees submit their reports and a decision is taken thereafter by the Cabinet. Non-inclusion of 'X Group Pay' for pension is also a cause of concern, it may be recalled that till now the same was included as an element for pension. The committee on allowances has already submitted its report which will now be examined by the Government. Unlike pay and pension which are admissible retrospectively from 01 January 2016, most freshly rationalized allowances shall only be admissible prospectively.

This is all I have to say at present, please DO NOT mail me individual queries on email or social media. You are free to discuss the above @ the comments section of this post.

Thank You.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Seventh Central Pay Commission orders for pay issued by Ministry of Defence

The Ministry of Defence has issued the orders for the new pay regime on implementation of the recommendations of the 7th Central Pay Commission for all ranks.

The orders shall now be known as Rules rather than Instructions. For example, the modalities for Ranks other than Commissioned Officers of the Army shall be known as the “Army Pay Rules” rather than “Special Army Instructions”.

The orders for Ranks other than Commissioned Officers can be accessed and downloaded by clicking here.  

The orders for Commissioned Officers of the Army can be accessed and downloaded by clicking here.

The orders for Commissioned Officers of the Navy can be accessed and downloaded by clicking here.

The orders for Commissioned Officers of the Air Force can be accessed and downloaded by clicking here.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Interview in Times of India on Jadhav issue

The issue of Kulbhushan Jadhav’s sham trial by a military Court in Pakistan has truly hurt the conscience of all those who believe in the rule of law.

My Question and Answer session on the subject was published on the editorial page of The Times of India.

The same can be accessed here.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Path-breaking move by the Ministry of Home Affairs for the bravehearts of the Central Armed Police Forces

There would be naysayers who would spare no effort to look down upon this move, but to apolitical persons like us, this is one of the most path-breaking concepts brought about by the Central Government for brave-hearts of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) the nation lost in the line of duty.

www.BharatKeVeer.gov.in is a website where any individual can contribute directly to the accounts of the kin of bravehearts of the CAPFs. The amount can either be contributed to the fund of the kin or to the “Bharat Ke Veer” corpus. A maximum contribution of Rupees Fifteen Lakhs can be made to the kin directly, and in case a higher contribution is made, then the amount over and above Rupees Fifteen Lakhs can be transferred to the corpus or to the account of the kin of another braveheart. 

The corpus would be managed by a committee of eminent personalities and senior government functionaries.

The concept is applicable to 8 CAPFs, including the Assam Rifles and National Security Guard.

Gratitude also goes out to Mr Akshay Kumar for his contribution to this cause and also to the leadership of CAPFs for strongly standing behind their men and women in uniform.