In a landmark judgment for disabled soldiers, the Punjab and Haryana high court has ruled that soldiers injured during leave are entitled to disability benefits.
The court has set aside the order of the Chandigarh bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), which had ruled otherwise.
The high court order is applicable to all kinds of authorised leave.
The bench headed by justice Hemant Gupta ruled, “… the injuries suffered by the petitioner when on casual leave entitle the petitioner to disability pension as the injury would be deemed to have been attributed to military service.”
Petitoner Barkat Masih had approached the high court last year after the AFT ruled against him in 2012.
While being on casual leave, he had met with an accident at Chandimandir cantonment (Panchkula district) in 1993. He was riding a scooter when it was hit by an army truck from the rear.
He suffered 20% disability but was not granted disability pension as the accident was termed “not attributable to military service”.
The court observed, “It is also not disputed that during the leave, personnel of the ar med forces are liable to maintain discipline and are gover ned by the provisions of the Army Act, 1950, or the rules framed thereunder and in case of any misconduct, liable to be proceeded against.
If the personnel of the armed forces are entitled to discipline and control of the Army Act, the corresponding duty of the armed forces is to take care of their personnel when on leave.
It is a necessary commitment of the army.” On leave, the court commented that it is a basic human right even recognised by the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, to which India is a signatory.
The court added, “We find that grant of such leave has a dual purpose. Firstly, to give time to the personnel of the armed forces to attend to their domestic chores which in their absence while on active service, family members may not be in a position to handle.
The second is that after the arduous nature of the duties, some time is required to rejuvenate the armed forces personnel while they are in touch with the civil society.
It prepares them for further active duty. In the absence of leave, which is necessary for maintaining mental equilibrium, the grant of leave is necessary for discharge of their duties in an efficient manner.”