In a landmark judgment for deciding disability pension cases of armed forces personnel, the Punjab and Haryana high court has ruled that the high court as well as the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) can re-examine the report of the release medical board categorising the disability either not attributable to military service or aggravated by military service.
“It is a jurisdiction of judicial review so as to ensure that the authorities remain within the confines of law.
The power of judicial review is to examine the decision-making process and if the decision-making process contravenes the statutory regulations or the instructions issued, to correct the same,” said the division bench comprising justices Hemant Gupta and Fateh Deep Singh.
The judgment came on a petition filed by ex-naik Umed Singh challenging order of the Chandigarh bench of Armed Forces Tribunal declining him disability pension, which was set aside by the high court.
Also, the court ruled that if no note is given of any disease at the time of acceptance of an individual into military service, the disease would be deemed to have arisen in service.
But the court clarified, “The invalidation medical board or review medical board has to record a categorical opinion that the disease, the reason of invaliding out of service, could not have been detected on medical examination at the time of enrolment.
In the absence of any such finding of the medical board, the disease would be deemed to have arisen in service.”
Deciding on the question whether the claim of the disability pension can be declined for the reason that it was not raised soon after discharge from the Army on the ground of limitation, the court said, “The delay in lodging of a claim cannot be pre-judicial to the interest of the respondents though at the same time the legitimate right of the ar med forces personnel or their dependents cannot be defeated.”
The court said, “In case of weeding of the records, the claim of the armed forces personnel or their legal heirs would be required to be examined on the basis of available record, if possible, to determine the cause of discharge from the Army and whether such cause leads to a finding of the discharge being attributable or aggravated by military service.”