In a first, Chandigarh tribunal awards war injury pension to World War-II veteran
The petitioner had asked whether the government could deny war injury pension/benefits to personnel injured in the World War II on the pretext that they were fighting for the British and not for an Indian government.punjab Updated: Jul 18, 2017 09:58 IST
In a landmark order, the Chandigarh bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has granted relief to a 93-year-old World War II veteran by setting aside the ‘differential treatment’ meted out to soldiers injured in pre and post independence wars.
At present, the Centre extends war injury benefits only to those injured in post-independence wars.
The tribunal was hearing a petition filed by 93-year-old Amar Singh, a resident of Bhiwani, Haryana. Singh was a Sepoy in the British Indian Army. He was attached with the King George V’s 8th Light Cavalry and was injured during a grenade blast in Burma (present day Myanmar) in 1944. He lost three fingers of his right hand and suffered multiple shoulder injuries in the blast.
Centre must show magnanimity
The AFT bench comprising justice Bansi Lal Bhat and Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra (retd) held that such differential treatment by distinguishing between injuries suffered in different wars is uncalled for. The bench also directed the Centre to show magnanimity and identify other such soldiers and release the benefits due to them without them being forced to approach the courts.
The concept of war injury pension to those injured in international wars was introduced only in January 1996, vide a letter issued in 2001 with retrospective effect. However, since Singh retired before 1996, these benefits have not been extended to him. Furthermore, these pensions are applicable only to the injured in post-independence international wars.
Singh, through his lawyer, asked whether the government could deny war injury pension/benefits to personnel injured in the World War II on the pretext that they were fighting for the British and not for an Indian government? He added that the action of depriving war injury pensions to the veterans was faulty because World War II was a war of humanity against the Nazi and fascist forces and was not a war for or against a particular nation.
About 26 lakh personnel were recruited from India in the British Indian Army during the war.
Civilians get benefits, soldiers don’t
Interestingly, civilian employees injured even in pre-independence international wars, including those of the Central Police Organisations (now known as the Central Armed Police Forces), especially those of the Crown Reserve Police, became eligible for war injury pension since January 1, 1996.
The petitioner argued that only a handful of World War II disabled survivors are alive today. Furthermore, it seems odd that the government is continuing with such differential practices despite being fully aware that these veterans are extremely old. The benefits due do not impose huge financial burden on the government, he said.