ChandigarhArmy officers posted in areas without any residential accommodation can expect some relief. The Chandigarh Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) comprising justice MS Chauhan and vice-admiral AG Thapliyal has directed the government to resolve an anomaly due to which the House Rent Allowance (HRA) of officers posted to Hard Non-Military Stations (HNMS), a type of posting station, was not being reimbursed. The officers were not being reimbursed even when there was no government accommodation available at such stations. The AFT directions came after Lt Col MK Hooda, posted in Rewari as registrar of Sainik School, approached it. Since the school was ‘Under Raising’, there was no official accommodation available for him. Such stations, called HNMS, entitle officers to retain their families at the “Selected Place of Residence”. In case, no military family accommodation is available at the selected station, personnel are entitled to HRA for hiring houses for their family. In this case, the officer had kept his family at Gurgaon when the military authorities officially conveyed the non-availability of accommodation.Technical hurdle to HRA claimHowever, the Controller of Defence Accounts had rejected the HRA claim of the officer on the grounds that while Rewari had been declared HNMS in 1991 for officers posted to NCC units, it wasn’t declared HNMS for Sainik School since it was raised in 2009. The army headquarters also took up the petitioner’s claim, but the defence ministry finally rejected it. The ministry admitted that there were anomalies in the matter, but those were still under consideration for resolution.The petitioner, then, challenged the non-reimbursement of the HRA on the grounds that his rightful claim could not be kept pending till the anomaly was resolved. He also took the plea that it was discriminatory to grant the same to army officers posted with the NCC units in the same station, but not to officers posted to Sainik School. According to him, it was the station that was to be treated as HNMS and not any particular unit in the station.Allowing this petition, the AFT has directed the government to release the HRA to the officer and has observed “with anguish” that officials responsible for looking after the welfare of soldiers show ‘complete lack of empathy’. The tribunal has added that it was distressing that the list of HNMS had not been upgraded and the anomalies had not been removed even after two decades of issue of the original letter. The AFT added that it was its earnest hope that the authorities would remove such anomalies to save personnel from unnecessary inconvenience.