Tuesday, August 9, 2011

MoD Style- Blame Game to Cheat Veterans

Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Blame Game : MoD style !
“We believe to err is human. To blame it on someone else is politics" : Hubert H Humphrey

The MoD is unfairly and unnecessarily blaming the Services for non-implementation of Court orders.
People who are familiar with the field of litigation in the defence services would be aware of the fact that most of the cases decided in favour of pensioners, especially disabled personnel, are not implemented in a timely manner and majority of decisions of Courts and Tribunals are implemented only after contempt petitions are filed by affected parties. Even the judgements that are implemented are done so in a reluctant manner with the feeling in the South Block being that the policies framed by the MoD are sacrosanct and that every decision against the thought-process of the MoD should be challenged in a higher Court of Law. Fair enough, since the Constitutional framework provides a right to appeal to every party to a case. But this assumes dangerous proportions when even verdict after verdict on a particular issue, including by the highest Court of the land, the MoD continues to file appeals in similar matters thereby burdening the pockets of veterans and dockets of Courts. This is done with one singular motive – that out of the many appeals filed, even if one succeeds, the MoD would be able to scuttle the move for a change in policy for the better. And this is done being fully aware that veterans cannot afford legal help, especially at Supreme Court level, and hence it is not surprising that in most of the cases where decisions were ultimately rendered in favour of the MoD the affected parties were either unrepresented or were appearing in person, the reason being common – inability to afford counsel fee.

The powers to implement Court orders have been delegated to the Services HQ. It was earlier felt that due to lack of proper understanding, the Services HQ were blindly following the dictates of the MoD, especially in pensionary matters, and recommending appeals even in settled issues and further making no moves to reduce litigation or to bring about changes in policies that had persistently faced flak from the Courts. But this changed in the recent few years when the AG’s branch and the Personnel Services Directorate truly started taking proper interest in these matters with actual application of mind resulting in some proactive policy decisions and also putting it on record that certain imbalanced policies of the MoD which were resulting in a major flux of litigation, required a re-look. It was also now clear that even in certain issues where the Services HQ were of the view that appeals were not required to be filed, the MoD still insisted on challenging the verdicts but publicly projecting that it were the Services which were going about filing appeals against their own pensioners and not the MoD since the powers to implement decisions were vested with the Services HQ. In fact, it was more than once communicated by the MoD on hard paper that they were not the ones filing appeals, but the Services HQ. This statement was, and remains, a sham. It appears that despite best efforts by all stake-holders, the perception in the corridors of the MoD, especially, the Pension Wing, is, that veterans are greedy and do not deserve more than what they are already getting. The efforts of the Services HQ to bring about a change in policy meet the waste-bin in ways more than one.

And now comes another hard to believe master-stroke. Now the MoD has blamed the Services for delay in implementation of orders by Benches of the AFT. It has also been stated before the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Defence that about 303 decisions are yet to be implemented due to the delay caused by the hierarchical structure of the services. The excuse is hogwash and so is the number since there must be well over 2000 decisions as on date which have not been implemented. 303 is a very mild figure and at best depicts an antiquated bolt action gun.

Hence in the ultimate analysis, when the public questions the MoD over appeals being filed against veterans and the disabled, it (the MoD) very conveniently blames the Services leaving the Services HQ at the mercy of public flak and ridicule, and when a Parliamentary committee questions the non-implementation of Court orders, again the Services are blamed for the delay when the actual culprit is the sadist attitude of those manning certain lower level appointments in the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare in the MoD.

The policy making mechanism at the Pension wing is leading to frustration and a sense of great disservice. In-principle decisions taken at the highest level are scuttled by lower staff by misleading file notings. Policy decisions take years to materialise, for example, certain anomalies of the 5th CPC are being resolved 15 years after the date of implementation of the 5th CPC. Rather than taking decisions at the govt level, files are sent to the offices of CGDA and PCDA(P) for drafting govt letters and seeking their opinions, whereas accountants have actually nothing to do with the process of decision making, their duty is to disburse payments based on govt policy and not make the policy itself. Rather than rectifying anomalous policies, appeals to the SC are made as a matter of routine, to take an example, the SC has in atleast 10 cases settled the issue of grant of service element to pre-1973 retirees irrespective of length of service even if the disability falls below 20%, but the MoD continues to file appeals in similar cases and at this particular moment, more than 50 appeals are pending on the subject filed by the MoD against disabled veterans, most of them over the age of 70 notwithstanding 10 verdicts in favour of veterans. In cases of disability pension, till the 5th CPC, the amount for disability element for say 20% disability was Rs 310/- per month and even in such cases appeals were filed as a matter of routine when disability pension was allowed by Courts wherein lacs of rupees were paid to the battery of counsel representing the MoD, the great MoD which has scant respect for the National Litigation Policy formulated by the Union of India, that great MoD which treats its disabled as its adversaries, that MoD which feels that pensioners are a greedy lot, that MoD which would wrongly blame the Army, Navy and the Air Force fully knowing the sleight of hand at play, that MoD whose staffers believe that they are better jurists than the Courts rendering verdicts in favour of pensioners and the proof of this attitude lies in the fact that the MoD has filed a review petition in every single case decided by the Supreme Court in favour of pensioners in the recent times.
Solution No 1
The top brass at the MoD including the RM, the RRM and the Secretary of the Department of ESW, starts taking proper interest in the affairs of veterans by way of initiating democratic decisions by involving all stake holders – the ESW staff, the Services, representatives of recognised veteran bodies with experts in the field. Look at the current lot dealing with the issues involving millions of veterans – An otherwise well meaning Secretary from the IAS who is retiring soon, a Joint Secretary from the Assam-Meghalaya cadre of the IAS who is currently on training and whose tenure under the Central Staffing Scheme ends this year, a Director (Pensions) who is from the Indian Forest Service and knows nothing about pensions and who would soon revert to his parent cadre, two Under Secretaries from the Central Secretariat Service (CSS) who again have no expertise in pensionary matters and who probably rule the roost of the pension branch, knowing that the department is entirely dependent on them, in all probability assuming more air of authority than what their so-called proficiency really warrants.
Solution No 2
Disband the Army. Period.
Posted by Navdeep / Maj Navdeep Singh

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