The Supreme Court has ruled that military personnel suffering disabilities while on casual leave would be treated to be on duty and entitled to disability pension.
Former air force sergeant ML George had got injured in 1993, while being on casual leave, as his motorcycle hit a lorry parked on the road. He was denied disability pension by the army on the pretext that though he was not negligent or intoxicated during the accident, the disability was not "attributable to military service" and had occurred in a peace area.
The Supreme Court, while interpreting relevant rules and regulations, has held that casual leave is treated as duty and hence the individual is to be treated as being on duty at the time of the accident.
The court has again emphasised that the term "at public expense" in the rules has been used loosely and a person can only be denied disability pension in case he meets with an accident during an unauthorised journey since it was not the case that the soldier had left the place of his duty unauthorisedly "It cannot, therefore, be said that he was not on duty...," the SC has recorded.
In a similar detailed decision earlier this year, the Punjab and Haryana high court, while overturning a decision of the Armed Forces Tribunal in the case of soldier Barkat Masih, had held that leave was a basic human right recognised even by the United Nations and it had the dual purpose of giving time to members of the armed forces to attend to their domestic chores and also to rejuvenate them so that they could remain in touch with society and maintain mental equilibrium.
The high court had also held that if the personnel of the armed forces are entitled to discipline and control under the Army Act, the corresponding duty of the armed forces was to take care of their personnel when on leave.