The Chandigarh bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has extended the benefit of rounding off disability percentage to pre-1996 retirees with less than 20% disability.
Such a benefit was extended to post-1996 retirees but for pre-1996 retirees, the rounding off was allowed only for those with a minimum disability of 20%.
The fifth pay commission introduced broad-banding to minimise medical subjectivity and rationalise mistakes of medical boards. It provided those with a disability below 50% to be granted disability element by treating it as 50%, those with 50%-75% were granted the benefit of 75%, and those above 76% were to be considered 100%. By rounding off, the percentage of disability is enhanced, which means higher pension.
Taking up three cases of pre1996 retirees, whose service was cut short as they had been bailed out with a disability percentage less than 20%, Justice Surinder Singh Thakur said, “In contravention to the policy formulated by the government, the defence ministry has consistently taken the stand that if the disability is even 1% in invalided out cases, post-1996 retirees will be entitled to rounding off but for pre-1996 retirees, rounding off will only be applicable if the disability is more than 20%.”
The judgment said, “This differentiation does not exist in the government letter of February 3, 2000. The counsel for the petitioners informed us that there is no such distinction for civilians and this has been introduced only for armed forces personnel.”
The Chandigarh bench said that the principal bench of the AFT in Delhi removed this distinction in a judgment in 2010 but the government ignored it and neither filed any appeal. “In other cases, the defence ministry has taken the plea that it is unable to issue a new policy without concurrence of the finance ministry. We find that at para 7 of the letter, concurrence of the finance ministry has been taken by the ministry of personnel, public grievance and pension.” The central government counsel couldn’t place any material or argument in support of why financial concurrence when already existing is again required.
In this case, disability percentage will be rounded off to 50 % in case of Bharat Kumar, who came to the court after 22 years of his release with disability of 11 to 19 %, Hoshiar Singh, who approached the court after 44 years of his release with disability of 15% to 19% and Jasbir Singh, who approached the court after 22 years with disability of 11% to 14 %.