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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Confusion between Modified Assured Career Progression Scheme (MACP) and Military Service Pay (MSP) and the need to ignore unnecessary rumours and false hopes

There are certain messages floating on social and other media that the Supreme Court of India has passed directions to pay ‘Military Service Pay’ with effect from January 2006 rather than from 2008 as was granted by the Government.

This is incorrect and there are no such directions. People are probably confusing the recent judgment on Modified Assured Career Progression Scheme (MACP) with the concept of Military Service Pay (MSP). Even otherwise, de hors the absence of any such decision, no parallel can be drawn between the two issues.

As explained in the post of 12 December 2017, the Sixth Central Pay Commission had recommended the implementation of the ‘Modified Assured Career Progression’ Scheme (MACP) providing for the grant of three financial upgradations of pay at the gap of 8, 16 and 24 years of service in case of stagnation, for the defence services.

The Special Army Instructions (SAI) on the subject had also been issued with effect from 01 January 2006 and which contained therein the stipulation of MACP. However later, despite the existence of the said SAI, another fresh letter was issued by the Government stating that MACP will be prospectively implemented from 01 September 2008.

Hence ultimately, unlike other pay related modalities which were implemented with effect from 01 January 2006, MACP was implemented with effect from 01 September 2008, thereby not including in its scope the personnel who were released from service between the two dates. The Chandigarh Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) however ruled that the pay commission had granted all pay and pension related benefits from January 2006 and the prospective implementation was only effectuated for ‘allowances’ and hence MACP was also to be implemented from January 2006 since it pertained to upgradation of pay. While ordering so, the AFT had followed the decision of the Punjab & Haryana High Court which had earlier ruled upon the implementation of improved pay-scales of defence personnel from 1996 rather than 1997 in an anomaly emanating out of the Fifth Pay Commission. The decision of the AFT was challenged by the Government in the Supreme Court but the Apex Court dismissed the appeal filed by the Union of India thereby upholding the grant of MACP from 01 January 2006 rather than 01 September 2008.

The aspect to be noted however in the above is that in case of MSP, the pay commission had itself noted that it shall be applied prospectively without any arrears (Para 2.3.12 of the 6th Central Pay Commission Report). Further when the SAI 1/S/2008 was issued, while it applied benefits of all modalities from 2006 (including MACP), it had specifically stated in Paragraph 5(d) that arrears of MSP shall only be paid with effect from 01 September 2008. There was no such negative stipulation for MACP. Further MACP was a replacement for the earlier ACP while MSP was completely a new element.

Hence, as the above would show, while the MACP was applied from 2006 but later tacitly retrospectively withdrawn and made applicable from 2008- an action was at the heart of the debate in Courts, there was no such controversy with regard to MSP which was always meant to be paid prospectively from September 2008.

Though at the surface both issues might appear to be similar to the untrained eye, there is actually absolutely no parallel between the concepts of MACP and MSP, and hence it is in the interest of sanity to ignore messages being circulated that MSP arrears will be paid to all personnel with effect from 01 January 2006. One should avoid forwarding such messages since it may promote unnecessary litigation and propel false hopes.

The above is not in the form of legal advice but merely my humble opinion since a litigious society is not in anybody’s interest.

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