Supreme Court sets aside AFT decision on disability pension

Supreme Court sets aside AFT decision on disability pension

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has come to the defence of two disabled soldiers fighting for their dues after the Jaipur and Chandigarh Benches of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) rejected their claims of disability pension. In an order on 11 February 2016, the apex body directed the government to release the disability pension to both, setting aside the decision of the tribunals.

"We are of the view that the claim made by the appellant for payment of disability pension has been wrongly declined by the authorities", stated the order.

The claims for disability pension of Havildar Mani Ram Bhaira for Peripheral Vascular Disease and Sepoy Satwinder Singh for schizophrenia were rejected by the Jaipur and Chandigarh Benches of the AFT respectively on the ground that their disabilities were 'neither attributable to nor aggravated by military service' as certified by military medical boards.

"This Court has in more than clear terms stated that the burden to establish a disconnect between the disease and military service lies upon the employer. The soldier cannot be asked to prove that the disease was contracted by him on account of military service or was aggravated by the same", added the order.

In a report by the Raksha Mantri's Committee of Experts to reduce litigation in the armed forces it is stated that the ministry of defence staff issues letters tacitly instructing medical boards to 'technically circumvent the laws laid down by the highest court of the land and dodge beneficial rules. A senior officer told ET, "it is ridiculous that the ministry fights for even minor pensionary benefits to its own soldiers". According to the recent report, there are currently 16138 cases related to the uniformed services pending before the various courts and tribunals in the country. The report further states that almost 90 per cent of the total appeals filed by the Ministry of Defence comprises challenges to disability benefits to soldiers.

Source: Economic Times

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