Army personnel cannot claim disability pension if they get hurt in an accident while on leave as it has no link with official discharge of duty, the Supreme Court has held.
A bench of justice BS Chauhan and justice JS Khehar said that in such cases, courts should not interfere with findings of the medical board about the cause of accident and eligibility of the personnel to claim the benefit.
"A person claiming disability pension must be able to show a reasonable nexus between the act, omission or commission resulting in an injury to the person and the normal expected standard of duties and way of life expected from such person. As the military personnel sustained disability when he was on an annual leave, and that too in his hometown in a road accident, it could not be held that the injuries could be attributable to or aggravated by military service. Such a person would not be entitled to disability pension," the bench said in an order.
The apex court upheld an appeal filed by the Centre challenging a judgment of the Punjab and Haryana high court directing the government to pay disability pension to Talwinder Singh, who suffered disability in the eye due to an accident sustained at his hometown while being on leave.
"We are of the view that the opinion of the medical board, which is an expert body, must be given due weight, value and credence. Person claiming disability pension must establish that the injury suffered by him bears a causal connection with military service. In the instant case, as the injury suffered by the respondent could not be attributable to or aggravated by the military service, he is not entitled for disability pension," the bench said.
The high court had ruled in favour of Talwinder, though the trial court and the first appellate court rejected his plea. Talwinder, who was enrolled in the Sikh Regiment I first appellate court on May 23, 1987. He had proceeded on annual leave from March 31, 1990, for two months to his hometown, when was hit in the left eye by a small wooden piece ('gulli') which children were playing with.
The army's Release Medical Board, in its assessment, held that the disability was 30% for life. However, it declared that the disability was neither attributable to nor aggravated by military service.
Despite the board's findings, the high court directed disability pension to Talwinder, following which the union government appealed in the apex court.