Monday, February 20, 2012

Ministry of Defence treats disabled war heros in disgust

Disability pension: Govt drags ex-Vice Chief of Army to SC
The Tribune by R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent
New Delhi, February 19

The government has dragged Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi, who retired as Vice-Chief of the Army Staff, to the Supreme Court over a dispute involving a difference of just five per cent in the disability pension.

Gen Oberoi lost his right leg below the knee during the 1965 India-Pakistan war when he was Captain.

Subsequently, his disability was assessed at 70 per cent. He was retained in service and he rose to the rank of Lieutenant General before his retirement in 2001.

The war hero claimed 75 per cent disability pension under a February 3, 2000 government circular on rounding off of benefit. Under the circular, personnel assessed at 20-50 per cent disability would be entitled to 50 per cent disability pension.

Similarly, the extent of disability from 50 to 75 per cent would be rounded off to 75 per cent and 75 to 100 per cent disability would be treated as 100 per cent disability.

Subsequently, the Defence Ministry issued a letter on January 31, 2001 disqualifying those retiring on superannuation from getting the rounding off benefit. Another letter on January 19, 2010, clarified that rounding off would be done only for those who were prematurely released from service.

Gen Oberoi challenged the two letters before a regional Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), Chandigarh, at Chandimandir, which allowed his claim for 75 per cent disability pension on August 4, 2010, directing the government to make the payment within six months. Any delay in the payment would entail an interest of 8 per cent.

The government has, however, moved the SC after a delay of 429 days, challenging the AFT’s judgment. Opposing the petition on behalf of Gen Oberoi, counsel Aishwarya Bhati contended that the matter had very serious ramifications as about 2,000 such cases were pending for adjudication.

After a brief hearing on February 17, a Bench comprising Justices Aftab Alam and CK Prasad tagged the petition with other similar cases and sought the response of Gen Oberoi.

In the appeal, the government contended that the AFT’s ruling was in violation of several SC verdicts, holding that there was a clear distinction between those invalidated out of service and those discharged from service on completion of tenure for the purpose of pension benefits. Further, the AFT had no power to strike down government orders.

This case has come to the SC close on the heels of the apex court resolving another high-profile dispute involving the age of Army Chief Gen Vijay Kumar Singh. The SC had rejected Gen Singh’s plea that his date of birth should be taken as May 10, 1951 on his service records and not as May 10, 1950 as directed by the government.
Disability pension: Govt drags ex-Vice Chief of Army to SC

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