Welfare is supposedly one of the ‘sacred duties’ of the government. Based on the recommendations of the Fourth Pay Commission, the government sanctioned a new integrated pay scale for officers of the Armed Forces up to the rank of Brigadier and equivalent. In addition to this pay scale, ‘Rank Pay’ was also granted at the rate of Rs 200, 600, 1,000 and 1,200 per month for a Captain, Major, Lieutenant Colonel, Colonel and Brigadier, respectively, and their equivalent ranks in the Navy and the Air Force. These emoluments were effective from January 1, 1986, and became the entitlement and legal right of defence officers.
Officers joining service after January 1, 1986, automatically came under the new scale. The pay of serving officers had to be revised and fixed in the new scale. While doing this, however, pay was wrongly fixed due to a flaw in the departmental instruction to the pay office. The Controller of Defence Account (CDA), after calculating the total emoluments due as per the new scale, deducted ‘Rank Pay’ from it, and the balance, rounded off to the next higher stage, was fixed as the new pay.
This caused significant financial loss to defence officers. After a Kerala High Court verdict on a petition filed in 1996, it was found that emoluments allocated to defence officers were denied to them by their own Service HQ and the Controller of Defence Accounts (CDA).
When the Kerala High Court set right this wrong in 1998 and restored the benefit, the defaulters appealed against the restoration! This was dismissed by a division bench of the high court in 2003. Not satisfied, the Defence Ministry, the Army Chief and the CDA appealed to the Supreme Court. But this appeal, too, was dismissed in 2005.
After re-fixing the pay of affected officers, each officer of the rank of Captain and Brigadier, and their equivalent ranks in the Navy and Air Force who were in service on January 1, 1986, and numbering about 45,000, should have been individually given their arrears by now or their likely dates of payment.
Most of the affected officers have retired and have not been paid their arrears. Veterans, who gave the best part of their lives to the service of the nation, are agitated at the injustice done to them. They are now trying to make themselves heard by the Defence Ministry and the three Service Chiefs.
It would be nice if officers could be paid for their services by Diwali. Diwali 2006, that is.
VV Gupta is a retired Brigadier