In a landmark judgement, the Chandigarh bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) set aside the income limit of Rs. 2,250 per month imposed on parents of deceased soldier to grant family pension.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD), in its letter dated August 26, 1998, had fixed the income limit in granting the pension amount to dependant parents of soldiers who had died as bachelors.
The bench comprising judicial member justice Rajesh Chandra and administrative member Lt Gen DS Sidhu (retd) ordered that Balwinder Kaur, mother of deceased soldier Sukhjinder Singh, of Tarn Taran, be given ordinary family pension within four months from the death of her son.
Sukhjinder Singh (23) was enrolled in the army on April 10, 2004 and died on December 5, 2009, in an accident while on annual leave. He was a bachelor.
However, Balwinder Kaur was denied pension by pension-dispensing authorities on the ground that her husband Jagir Singh’s pension income was higher than the upper limit fixed by the MoD. He is a former havaldar.
Balwinder Kaur approached Chandigarh-based All India Ex-servicemen Welfare Association (AIEWA) which challenged the denial of dependant pension to the parents of Sukhjinder Singh, who was Personnel Below Officers Ranks (PBORs).
AIWEA chairman Bhim Sen Sehgal appeared for Balwinder Kaur before the AFT and challenged the government’s action. He argued the move was not only discriminatory but also violated articles 14, 16 and 31 of the Constitution as no such limit had been provided for dependants of the commissioned officers who were entitled to higher pension than PBORs’ dependants.
He said, “There is no ceiling limit on any other kind of pension such as liberalised, special family pension, payable to families and dependants. Such an action would hamper the youths’ recruitment to the army.”