The Supreme Court has again come to the rescue of disabled soldiers. It has dismissed an appeal filed by the ministry of defence (MoD) against a war decorated Chandigarh Brigadier, restoring war and disability financial benefits.
Brig SS Ahluwalia (retd), a Vir Chakra awardee, lost his limbs due to frostbite while capturing the highest picket at the Soltoro ridge in Jammu and Kashmir during the 1971 war and went 26km deep into Pakistan. He was refused the grant of disability benefits on the pretext that he voluntarily retired from service rather than retiring at the normal age of retirement.
"I retired in May 2000, just three months before the actual retirement date. They had posted me as a deputy general officer commanding in Rajouri. I told that I got injured in the war and could not serve there, but the Army authorities did not budge, so I opted for retirement. But they refused me the benefits as I retired voluntarily," said 71-year-old Brig Ahluwalia, a resident of Sector 16, Chandigarh.
Presently, he runs a non-governmental organisation (NGO) to take care of widows of war decorated soldiers. He said there were some people in the MoD who take sadistic pleasure in filing appeals against the disable ex-servicemen.
HIS ROLE IN 1971 WAR
He was commanding a company of Ladakh Scouts during the attack on enemy posts in an area in the western sector, towards the southern end of Siachen Glacier. He led his company in the attack on an enemy post but came under intense enemy small arms fire and shelling. Despite all efforts, the attack failed to make progress. With 15 other ranks, Ahluwalia moved across the fire swept terrain and launched an attack from an unexpected direction and captured the objective, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy. "Then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had immediately announced a Vir Chakra for me," said Brig Ahluwalia.
The MoD had been refusing disability and war disability benefits to those soldiers who took premature retirement on medical or compassionate grounds till the sixth Pay Commission asked it to change its policy. Later, while the MoD granted disability benefits to voluntary retirees, it allowed the same only to those who retired after January 2006 and not earlier. This cut-off date was later stuck down by courts.
Brig Ahluwalia's case was allowed by the Chandigarh bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal in 2010 which held him entitled to disability benefits for his disability sustained in operations. However, four years after his case was allowed, the MoD filed an appeal in the Supreme Court, which was dismissed recently.