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Monday, 3 July 2017

Ministry of defence will not challenge disability pension for soldiers

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Indian Military Veterans



CHANDIGARH: In a significant move, the ministry of defence (MoD) has decided not to challenge court orders asking the defence forces to give disability pension to its soldiers. The move will affect thousands of soldiers who have suffered disability during military service or died because of a disability while in service.




MoD has told defence services headquarters to grant 'absolute sanction' for disability pension in cases of personnel have been granted relief of disability pension by courts and tribunals.

Despite a settled legal position and directions by the SC, HCs and various benches of the Armed Forces Tribunal, authorities often denied soldiers disability pension on grounds that were seen as 'hyper-technical' or hairsplitting. The benefits were denied declaring disabilities as "neither attributable to, nor aggravated by military service" (popularly known as NANA cases).

Legal experts say that in many cases defence authorities would appeal against a lower court's order in the Supreme Court for what were small increases in the pension.

TOI has reported several such cases where disabled soldiers or their family members were deprived of the pension. In one case, a widow from Himachal Pradesh whose husband was posted on guard duty at the Indo-China border, died while relieving himself was denied the disability pension.

MoD's June 29 letter has now asked military authorities to grant disability pension as per law laid down by the Supreme Court. In 2013, the Supreme Court in the Dharamvir Singh versus Union of India case had held that for acceptance of a disease as attributable to military service, conditions are to be satisfied that the disease has been arisen during the military service and caused by the conditions of employment in military service.

The MoD letter, however, has not issued directions to withdraw pending appeals. It has asked the authorities to issue 'absolute sanctions' after dismissal of pending appeals.

Increasing litigation against disabled soldiers and other personnel had led to the constitution of a committee of experts by then defence minister Manohar Parrikar
It comprised former Adjutant General Lt Gen Mukesh Sabharwal, former Military Secretary Lt Gen Richard Khare, Punjab and Haryana high court lawyer, Maj Navdeep Singh, former head of the army's legal branch, Maj Gen T Parshadand Kargil disabled veteran Maj D P Singh.

The committee had come down heavily on the ministry and defence services stating that most appeals emanated of an 'ego-fuelled' approach, rather than accepting the law laid down by Supreme Court and other courts. The panel had asked MoD to withdraw all pending appeals since the law was well settled and also to concede pending cases of disability pension on a case to case basis.

Major Navdeep Singh said while the move will end a dark chapter of mindless appeals, MoD should show magnanimity and withdraw all appeals against disabled soldiers.

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