Providing a disabled soldier with relief, the Chandigarh bench of Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has come down heavily on the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and its department of ex-servicemen’s welfare for using struck-down policies to deny relief to soldiers.
It has asked the joint secretary in the department of ex-servicemen’s welfare to file affidavit about the action taken regarding the grant of disability pension to premature retirees, so that the policy is in tune with Supreme Court judgment of 2004. The bench headed by justice Surinder Singh Thakur said: “We would like the respondents (Union of India) to clarify that when the apex court had upheld a decision to grant disability pension to premature retirees, what is the rationale behind starting the process only when the individual filed a court case?”
“We are unable to find justification for this, either on any administrative grounds or on any point of law. Such an order only increases the pendency of court cases and the avoidable wasting of public money and time. The purpose of government orders and instructions is to find solutions administratively, not to wait for court cases to be filed to initiate a relief,” said the order. It added that in many cases where the courts had ordered the authorities concerned to take note of a judgment and apply it to all, “there should be no need for personnel to approach courts individually”.
Justice Thakur further observed: “They (department of ex-servicemen’s welfare) are putting hurdles in the path of ex-servicemen who have been given relief by the apex court. We find this approach repeated in a number of cases. No action to amend legally unsustainable policies is taken by the MoD.”
“If a policy enunciated by the respondents has been struck down, it has lost its existence, and it cannot be quoted. The vacuum needs to be filled by a new policy… we wonder whether an internal policy or standard operating procedure to carry out the amendment of a policy struck down by the courts exist at all,” he further observed.
The AFT ordered: “The respondents (MoD and department of ex-servicemen’s welfare) shall also promulgate a policy amending the present policy of paying disability pension to premature retirees, so that it is payable to ex-servicemen on their applying for it, without the necessity of moving court.”