Condemning the apathy to disabled soldiers, the Supreme Court has come down heavily on the army authorities in its latest judgment.
“Can the authorities be permitted to portray that whilst a person has so minor a disability as to disentitle him for compensation, yet suffers from a disability that is major or serious enough to snatch away his employment,” says the bench comprising Justices Vikramjit Sen and Shiva Kriti Singh.
They add, “We, just as every other citizen of India, would be extremely disturbed if the authorities are perceived as being impervious or unsympathetic towards members of the armed forces who have suffered disabilities, without receiving any form of recompense or source of sustenance, since these are inextricably germane to their source of livelihood.”
The petitioner Sukhwinder Singh was enrolled in the army in 2001 and was discharged in 2002 with disability of 6% to 10% on account of hearing impairment. He has been fighting for pension for the past 12 years.
The court found that the decision whether he should be retained in service in some other category was not even considered.
Sukhwinder claimed that he was slapped on the ear by his instructor which led to a shooting pain and further hearing impairment. The court observed that his allegations had credibility and concluded that the injury was ‘either attributable or aggravated by military service’. “Having undergone a thorough medical examination only one year prior to the incident, had the injury or disability been congenital or been in existence at the time of recruitment, it would have been found,” says the judgment.
The court said, “The morale of the armed forces requires absolute and undiluted protection, and if an injury leads to loss of service without any recompense, this morale would be severely undermined.”
While granting disability pension to Sukhwinder, it said, “There appears to be no provisions authorising the discharge or invaliding out of service where the disability is below 20% and seems to us to be logically so.”