HC restrains Maharashtra government from recovering ‘excess’ pensions paid to freedom fighters
Mumbai city news: The high court also directed the state government to pay the arrearsmumbai Updated: Jun 17, 2017 18:57 IST
The spirit of patriotism cannot be forgotten and buried in the books of Indian history, the Bombay high court has said, while restraining the state government from reducing and recovering purportedly “excess” amounts paid to hundreds of freedom fighters, who fought in second phase of the Goa Liberation Movement.
“It is the honour to acknowledge the valuable sacrifice,” said the division bench led by Justice RK Deshpande. “By permitting reduction in or stoppage of pension payable to the freedom fighters, we would be losing our own values, identity, principles and the importance of the days of freedom struggle,” said the court.
The judges were of the view that pension to freedom fighters would certainly be a “property”, within the meaning of Article 300A of the Constitution of India and therefore once the state or the central Government grants pension to freedom fighters or their dependents, it cannot be withdrawn even partially without a valid reason.
In January 1986, Maharashtra government introduced the Swatantra Sainik Samman Pension Scheme — for the benefit of freedom fighters from the state who participated in the second phase of Goa Liberation Movement.
Under the scheme, either the freedom fighters or their heirs were paid a pension of Rs150 per month and the amount was gradually increased to Rs 3,000 per month.
In November 2004, the General Administration Department (GAD) issued a circular and not only reduced the pension payable to these freedom fighters to Rs500 per month, but also sought to recover substantial amounts already paid to them. A group of freedom fighters from Nagpur district had approached high court challenging the circular.
The Goa Liberation Movement was launched to end 435 years of Portuguese rule in the tiny state and it was because of the efforts of the freedom fighters that Goa was liberated from Portuguese Rule in December 1961.
“Unfortunately, the respondents (state authorities) have forgotten the spirit of patriotism, struggle and sufferings by the freedom fighters for the nation and the object with which the policy granting pension was introduced,” said the high court.
Describing the action as “abasing the freedom fighters and losing our own values and importance of the days of freedom struggle,” the bench said, “To direct retrospective recovery of the amount paid to them (freedom fighters) amounts to adding insult to the injury.”
The high court has not only struck down the circular, but also directed the state government to pay within four months the amount of “arrears” to the freedom fighters or their dependents from the date on which reduced pension amount was being paid to them according to the GAD circular of November 2004.