Coming down heavily on the ministry of defence (MoD) for not extending the benefit of broad-banding disability percentage to disabled soldiers despite the Supreme Court judgment, the Chandigarh bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has said that “the government must cease to be a compulsive litigant; the easy approach, ‘Let the court decide’, must be eschewed and condemned.”
The fifth Pay Commission had introduced the concept of broad-banding to minimise medical subjectivity and rationalise mistakes of medical boards by providing that those with a disability below 50% would be granted disability element by treating it as 50%, those with 50%-75% would be granted the benefit of 75%, and above 76% would be considered as 100%.
By rounding off, the percentage of disability is enhanced, which means higher pension.
The AFT bench comprising justice Surinder Singh Thakur and Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra (retd), while providing relief to former Defence Service Corps sepoy Rattan Lal, has observed, “…we feel that no formal reply is required to be filed by the respondents (MoD) as it shall be a sheer wastage of public time and money because the petitioner’s case is fully covered by the apex court judgment (Ram Avtar case) vide which the benefit of rounding off is to be granted irrespective of the mode of discharge.”
While referring to the National Litigation Policy of 2010, the court said the purpose of this policy was to reduce government litigation so that “valuable time of courts/tribunals would be spent in resolving other pending cases so as to achieve the goal in the national legal mission to reduce the pendency to a minimum possible time.”
In the case of Sarwan Kumar, who retired from the Army Medical Corps (AMC) in 2013, justice Thakur and Lt Gen Chachra observed that there was no scope for not according the benefit of broad-banding of disability percentage and the MoD was required to make its policy in conformity with the apex court judgment.
The bench said, “However, it is seen that nothing has been done so far and frivolous pleas to scuttle legal claims flowing from the judgment of apex court are being raised.”
“This approach is required to be condemned with reasonable costs because a large number of petitioners are compelled to approach the tribunal in these matters for redressal of their grievances, spending a huge amount when the matter is no longer res-integra (new or untouched),” the bench said.