While providing relief to a widow from Ludhiana, the Supreme Court has questioned why the Centre has not so far taken any decision to give “fair treatment to the Territorial Army (TA) personnel by granting family pension to next of kin of personnel who die while in disembodied (demobilised) state”.
Invoking Article 142 of the Constitution, the bench headed by chief justice TS Thakur granted ex gratia amount of Rs 10 lakh to Santosh Devi, whose husband sepoy Raj Singh died in 2008 due to heart attack while being in disembodied (demobilised) state.
The apex court noted that the widow of a regular army personnel is allowed family pension if he dies in harness whereas same benefit is disallowed for widow of territorial army personnel and same anomaly had also been flagged by the ministry of defence report (declassified on February 18 this year) of the Committee of Experts constituted for Reduction of Litigation, Review of Service and Pension Matters.
Santosh Devi had approached the apex court after her petition for family pension was dismissed by Chandigarh bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) in 2011. Her husband sepoy Raj Singh was enrolled in 1995, demobilised in 2008 and died at home the same year. He had served for over 11 years.
According to rules, Territorial Army personnel who died during disembodied (demobilised) state without completing 15 years of embodied service are not entitled to service pension and so family pension was denied to Santosh Devi. The AFT had held in 2011 that persons in territorial army cannot at all times be treated on par with the army personnel; the territorial army personnel while in disembodied state do not stand on the same footing as compared to regular army personnel and thus held that Santosh Devi was not entitled to family pension.
But the apex court observed, “In spite of repeated recommendations, it is not known why steps are not being taken to remove the anomalies to pay family pension to next of kin of Territorial Army personnel who rendered long service in territorial army and died while in a disembodied state. We hope the Centre considers the issue favourably to remove the anomalies to pay appropriate family pension to next of kin of Territorial Army personnel who die while in disembodied state by giving due weightage to their embodied service.”
The Territorial Army is part of the regular Indian Army. Its role is to relieve the regular army from static duties, assist civil administration in dealing with natural calamities and maintenance of essential services in situations where life of the communities is affected or the security of the country is threatened, and also to provide units for the regular army as and when required.