After facing strong criticism from ex-servicemen circles, the department of ex-servicemen welfare has removed the letter from its website on instructions of filing appeals in judicial orders where relief is given to soldiers. However, the instructions stay.
The letter had also clearly mentioned that “MoD (ministry of defence) has filed appeals in almost all types of cases as per advice earlier tendered by law officers through LA (legal adviser)”.
“First, arbitrary policies are formulated against disabled and war-disabled soldiers, and then when courts rightly intervene, such soldiers are forced into ruthless litigation. It is easy for the government to use its large army of lawyers, including the solicitor general (SG) and the additional SGs, for waging a war against its own disabled soldiers, but can these soldiers and their families afford to effectively fight this war against the official establishment at the level of the Supreme Court?” said Major Navdeep Singh, a high court lawyer and former president of AFT Bar Association.
“The issue is how a poor jawan can fight up to Supreme Court. This is most insensitive on the part of ex-servicemen welfare department to issue such a letter. I have earlier raised the issue with defence minister AK Antony over filing appeals, who assured that they will be filed on case to case basis.
But, I think, the department does not listen to him,” said Lt Gen Raj Kadyan (retd), chairman, Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM).
What was there in the letter?
The letter, dated January 2, asked the judge advocate general branches of the Army, Air Force and Navy to file appeals in hundreds of cases falling in six different types of cases before the Supreme Court.
The two of the six categories included extending benefit of broad-banding of disability meant for invalided out armed forces personnel for pre and post-1996 cases. The legal opinion for appeals in these cases was provided by additional solicitor general (ASG) Vivek K Thanka, solicitor general (SG) Rohinton F Nariman and ASG Harin P Raval.
The third category is of granting disability pension to armed forces personnel whose disability is assessed and graded by medical board as neither attributable nor aggravated by military service for which legal opinion for appeal was provided by SG Mohan Parasaran and the fourth category is of granting benefit of trade realisation to pre-96 retirees from January 1, 1996 where legal opinion was provided by ASG Vivek K Tankha.
The fifth category is of granting parity of pension to soldiers vis-a-vis viceroy commissioned officers for which various ASGs have opined to go for appeals.
The sixth category is of grant of reservist pension to ineligible armed forces personnel who have not rendered required length of 9 years of active service plus 6 years of reserve service for which ASG PP Malhotra has advised for appeal.
The letter, sent by under secretary (pension/legal) RK Verma, instructed that to avoid paper work, such cases need not be routed to department for processing for appeal and service headquarters may straight away file appeals.