The Punjab and Haryana high court has ordered the Haryana government to pay Rs 10 lakh to the widow of a junior commissioned officer (JCO) with 9% interest per annum from 2002 till the date of payment as ex gratia.
Subedar Mam Chand, a resident of Sountly village in Ambala, had died along with 17 other personnel in a mine blast at Longewala in Jaisalmer (Rajasthan) during Operation Parakram on December 28, 2001.
Pushpa Devi, a resident of Ambala, had approached the high court in 2004 after the state government had denied ex gratia on the grounds that those dying a natural death, accidental death like motor transport accidents, air crashes or handling of explosives in any area/sector were ineligible under their scheme of 1999 and did not consider it as battle casualty.
Bhim Sen Sehgal, chairman of All India Ex-servicemen Welfare Association, said, “Pushpa’s husband had died along with 17 others while harbouring and arming and was reported as battle casualty by the Army. The casualty report forwarded to the secretary, Zila Sainik Board, Ambala, also reported the death as a battle casualty. But the state government had denied the ex gratia claim.”
The association had represented Pushpa Devi in the high court.
Justice K Kannan ruled, “If a person comes by death while handling an explosion which was a mere accident, I would understand that the nature of accident which is perceived as the nature of handling explosion that did not involve any battle. In this case, the cause of death has been referred to as a battle casualty.”
He said he would take the assessment “made by the army itself to dictate the nature of casualty as resultant to a battle in a warlike situation while carrying out operation of army and hence qualified for the petitioner’s claim”.
About the JCO
Subedar Mam Chand had four minor children at the time of his death. He had a service of about 28 years. He was cremated at his village in Ambala with full military honours. The panchayat had allotted land for erecting a statue of Mam Chand, which is maintained by the villagers. firstname.lastname@example.org