The growing adversarial relationship between the Government and ex-servicemen is a matter of grave concern.
For the last few years, an impression is gaining ground that the Government is becoming increasingly intolerant and biased against ex-servicemen and is treating them unfairly.
The military is an instrument of the Government. How can a Government let itself be seen as an ad- versary of its own constituent? More so when the aﬀected constituent consists of retired soldiers who have given the best part of their lives to the nation and now, in the twilight of their lives, look up to the Government for support to be able to lead a re- spectable life?
They do not seek favour or pity but ask for com- passion, understanding and equity. They want their Government to acknowledge the severity of their ser- vice conditions and their contribution to nation safe- guarding.
The vindictiveness and wickedness with which the Government is contesting court orders given in favour of the ex-servicemen has shocked even die-hard sup- porters of the Government. Three sets of recent cases clearly show the Government’s intransigence and ob- duracy.
The 4th Pay Commission had granted Rank Pay in addition to basic pay for oﬃcers up to the rank of Brigadier. There was no ambiguity at all.
However, while ﬁxing pay in the integrated scale, an amount equal to the Rank Pay was deceitfully de- ducted by the concerned bureaucrats from the total dues, thereby causing heavy ﬁnancial loss to the of- ﬁcers. It was an act of betrayal of the trust of the
No other country in the world is known to have conspired and connived so blatantly to deprive its own soldiers of their rightful dues. Even DA, pen- sion, gratuity and other related entitlements of the aﬀected oﬃcers were adversely impacted. With one clever stroke, the Government had nulliﬁed the rec- ommendations of the Pay Commission.
As all equivalence of appointments in the Govern- ment is based on pay scales, the bureaucracy em- ployed this stratagem to keep the comparative status of oﬃcers down. All pleas to the Government fell on deaf ears.
Major Dhanapalan approached Kerala High Court for justice in 1996. The Court ruled in favour of the petitioner and directed the Government to reﬁx his basic pay with eﬀect from 01 January 1986. Instead of accepting its mistake gracefully and ordering re- ﬁxation of pay of all eligible oﬃcers, the Government appealed against the award to a larger Bench of the same court. The appeal was dismissed.
However, the Government was not done yet, and brazenly ﬁled an SLP in the Supreme Court. The e Supreme Court found no merit in the appeal and dismissed it. The MoD grudgingly reﬁxed the pay of Major Dhanapalan and sanctioned payment of ar- rears.
Although the issue had wider application, the Gov- ernment failed to show required magnanimity to ex- tend the same dispensation to other aﬀected oﬃcers under the specious plea that the Court orders per- tained to the applicant only.
Dismayed by the apathetic attitude of the Govern- ment, many oﬃcers knocked at the doors of various courts in the country. The Supreme Court admitted a petition for transfer of all the writ petitions pending before the various High Courts in 2007. The matter was heard and ﬁnally disposed of by the Supreme Court on 8 March, 2010. The Apex Court held that the judgment of the Kerala High Court was correct and reasonable and as such the beneﬁt of this judg- ment be extended to all eligible oﬃcers of the Armed Forces. Additionally, the Apex Court awarded 6 per cent interest on the amount due to the oﬃcers.
The level to which the Government can stoop can be gauged from the fact that it has recently moved an application in the Apex Court for directions seek- ing modiﬁcation/ directions/ recall of the said order of 8 March 2010. It is obsessively resisting grant of overdue arrears to its oﬃcers despite clear-cut court directions.
In the case of Union of India and Major General Vains and Others, the Supreme Court had, vide its judg- ment of 9 September 2009, directed that the pay of all pensioners in the rank of Major General and its equivalent rank in the two other Wings of the De- fence Services be notionally ﬁxed at the rate given to similar oﬃcers of the same rank after the revision of pay scales with eﬀect from 01 January 1996.
The Apex Court ruled that similarly placed oﬃcers of the same rank should be given the same pension irrespective of the date of retirement and that no de- fence personnel senior in rank can get less pension than his junior irrespective of the date of retirement. Thus, principles governing ﬁxation of pension were unambiguously laid down by the Apex Court.
The Government should have accepted the above directions in the correct spirit and applied them across the board. Instead, it continued with its hos- tile approach and grudgingly readjusted pension only of pre-1966 and their equivalents in Navy and Air Force. Disparity between pensionary beneﬁts of pre-
2006 and post-2006 Major Generals continues. Most dishonestly, the Government decided to ignore the principles enunciated by the Honble Court and ap- plied its directions only to the barest inescapable cases.
It was left to the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) Chandigarh, when approached by the aggrieved par- ties, to rule, vide its judgment dated 3 March 2010, that the SC ruling dated 9 Sep 2009 be applied to pre-2006 retirees as well and that the judgment be implemented in three months time.
Concurrently, in another case, AFT Chandigarh, vide its judgment of 8 March 2010, ruled that the state cannot lay down diﬀerent criteria for grant of pensions to oﬃcers, JCOs and Jawans on the basis of cut-oﬀ date of retirement.
No defence person can draw less pension than his junior in rank irrespective of the date of retirement. All pensioners of the same rank and service irrespec- tive of the date of retirement are entitled to the same pension. The above directions were ordered to be implemented within four months.
Although the Supreme Court has been counsel- ing against frivolous and unjust litigation by govern- ments and statutory authorities in a callous and high- handed manner, it is learnt that the Government is planning to appeal against the above judgments - a sad illustration of pettiness getting better of a sense of equity and justice.
Strangely, it does not appear incongruous and ab- surd to the Government that it pays lesser pension to a Havildar than a Jawan who is two ranks his junior. Similarly, a Brigadier is getting lesser pension than a Colonel, only due to diﬀerent dates of retirement.
The case of C S Sidhu, a Short Service Commissioned Oﬃcer whose right arm had to be amputated due to an accident while serving on the border in high altitude area in November 1970, is symptomatic of the disdain and viciousness with which an apathetic Government treats its brave soldiers.
While dismissing the appeal on 1 April 2010, a bench of Justices Markandeya Katju and A K Pat- naik slammed the Government for treating army per- sonnel like ’beggars’ in respect of emoluments and pension and asked the authorities to adopt a more ’humane approach’ towards those bravely defending the country’s borders.
’If a person goes to any part of Delhi and sits for begging, he will earn Rs 1000 every day and you are oﬀering a pittance of Rs 1000 per month for a man who fought for the country in the high altitudes and whose arm was amputated? Is this the way you treat those brave army oﬃcers? It is unfortunate that you are treating them like beggars.’ observed the Court in verbal comments while passing the order.
It noted, ’The army personnel are bravely defend- ing the country even at the cost of their lives and we feel they should be treated in a better and more humane manner by government authorities, partic- ularly, in respect of their emoluments, pension and other beneﬁts.’
In its written order, the Apex Court stated, ’We regret to say that the army oﬃcers and army men in our country are being treated in a shabby manner by the government. In this case, the respondent (Sidhu) who was posted at a high altitude ﬁeld area and met with an accident during discharge of his duties was granted a meagre pension. This is a pittance (about Rs 1000) per month plus D.A...If this is the manner in which the army personnel are treated, it can only be said that it is extremely unfortunate. ’
Having failed to move the Government to accept their genuine demands, ex-servicemen felt compelled to re- sort to peaceful protests like ’dharnas’.
Not a single Government leader or functionary thought it necessary to meet the protesting ex- servicemen to understand their problems. Nearly 6,000 ex-servicemen signed in blood to express their frustration. The Government remained totally in- sensitive and indiﬀerent. Over 22,000 medals were
returned by the dismayed ex-soldiers to the Presi- dent of India on six occasions as a mark of protest against their total neglect. Medals earned during ac- tive service are the proudest possession of soldiers and their being driven to surrender them would have made any government sit up and take note. But the Indian Government, true to its wont, remained un- concerned.
This episode will certainly go down as a dark chap- ter in the history of Independent India, wherein ex- soldiers were treated so disdainfully.
It is a matter of shame that the Supreme Com- mander of the armed forces, the President of India, has not been able to spare a few minutes to meet a delegation of ex-servicemen despite repeated requests for a meeting. She can meet all and sundry but not the soldiers due to whose sacriﬁces India continues to exist as an independent nation.
Compare this with what President Obama said at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention at the Phoenix Convention Center on 17 August 2009, ’You have fulﬁlled your responsibilities. And now a grate- ful nation must fulﬁll ours. And so long as I am President of the United States, America will always fulﬁll its responsibilities to you’, he declared.
He termed America’s commitment to its veterans as sacred bonds and a sacred trust Americans are honour bound to uphold. It is no wonder that Amer- ica has been the undisputed world power whereas ev- ery foreign invader succeeding in enslaving India.
Purportedly to solve the problems faced by ex- servicemen, a new Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare (DEW) was raised in the Ministry of De- fence in 2004 with much fanfare. It had the ostensi- ble mandate of dealing with resettlement, welfare and pensionary matters of ex-servicemen. But the DEW has turned out to be a cruel joke played on the hapless ex-servicemen by self-serving bureaucracy. DEW is headed by a bureaucrat and there is no ex-serviceman in the whole department at all. The opportunity has been utilised to create another Secretary level ap- pointment. Needless to say that without ﬁrst-hand
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?