Monday, November 30, 2009

MoD pays for ignoring SC ruling

The Delhi High Court and the Armed Forces Tribunal have, in separate cases, imposed costs on the Ministry of Defence and the Army for not taking due cognizance of a Supreme Court order pertaining to grant of pension to disabled veterans and filing appeals contrary to the “settled legal position”.

The Supreme Court had earlier ruled that disabled ex-servicemen are entitled to pension even it they have sought retirement voluntarily. The MoD, however, is continuing to file appeals against the order of single benches of high courts allowing pension in such cases. Disability pensionary benefits were not being released by the MoD to voluntary retirees though the Supreme Court had held voluntary retirees entitled to disability pension in 2008.

Acting on a petition file by Bachan Singh, a resident of Ludhiana, the Delhi Bench of the AFT had a few days ago, imposed a fine of Rs 25,000 on the Adjutant General’s branch. The Bench observed that the approach of the authorities was casual, which drove poor personnel to unnecessary litigation when the issue stood decided by the high court and the Supreme Court.

The AFT order also quotes a recent case where the Delhi High Court had imposed costs of Rs 25,000 on the MoD for denying disability pension to a voluntary retiree contrary to the settled legal position.It is learnt that the MoD had filed appeals against benefits granted by the courts to disabled veterans by sweeping under the carpet the legal opinion of the office of the Solicitor General.

Even after a bunch of judgments of the Supreme Court upholding an earlier decision by the Delhi High Court, the Legal Advisor of the MoD had recommended further SLPs in similar cases. The matter was then referred to the Solicitor General’s office for opinion. The Additional Solicitor General, however, clearly opined that similar matters had been decided by the Supreme Court and had attained finality and such cases were not fit for SLPs.

Army Headquarters also requested that the MoD sanction disability pension to voluntary retirees citing that the same would result in reduction of court cases on the subject. The Army HQ had further pointed out that cases were “being contested by the government despite knowing the settled position of law.”

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