The Punjab and Haryana high court has slapped a fine of Rs 30,000 on the Centre for delay in completing an inquiry into the abruptly-stopped pension of Patiala-based freedom fighter Gurbachan Singh, 94. Gurbachan had participated in the Quit India Movement and was jailed for an year in Lahore in 1942.
Taking note that the Centre had stopped the freedom fighter's pension in 2003 and despite the high court's directions in a contempt case had not bothered to complete the inquiry even after six months, justice Mahesh Grover directed that the fine should be recovered from the responsible officer(s) for the delay.
Justice Grover observed that the freedom fighter was running from pillar to post for the revival of his pension, but the Centre was again asking for more time to inform the court about the outcome of the inquiry. "The court finds that the attitude of the respondents (Centre) is totally unjust and lackadaisical and also smacks of defiance of the order of this court," said justice Grover. The court granted the last opportunity to the Centre to complete the inquiry within six weeks.
A resident of Gulzarpura village (Patiala), Gurbachan had claimed that before Partition, he was a resident of Bhalekey village in Sheikhupura district (now in Pakistan). He was convicted by the Lahore court in 1942 for participating in the Quit India Movement and sentenced to one-year imprisonment from October 20, 1942, to October 19, 1943.
A division bench of the high court had on September 29, 2012, directed the Centre to verify records from the Lahore jail within four months to establish the genuineness of Gurbachan's claims if it was not satisfied with the records provided by the petitioner. However, the court was told that till date records could not be verified.
The petitioner had submitted that he was granted the Swatantrata Sainik Samman Pension on July 16, 1999, amounting to Rs 3,000 per month, along with dearness allowance. However, in June 2003, the central pension accounting office wrote a letter to the State Bank of Patiala's branch at Patiala to stop the pension.
When the petitioner approached the high court in 2010, the Centre informed that the petitioner's pension, along with that of 62 such pensioners, had been stopped as a case had been registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against the deputy secretary, who was indiscriminately allowing pension in many cases.