Monday, February 10, 2014

Disabled ex- servicemen get breather from Antony


By Gaurav C. Sawant in New Delhi
IN THE face of massive outrage, Defence Minister A. K. Antony has been forced to withdraw a controversial Ministry of Defence ( MoD) ruling that ex- servicemen and disabled soldiers who take the ministry to court over disability pension matters should be challenged all the way to the Supreme Court.
On January 2, 2014, the department of ex- servicemen welfare issued a ‘ New Year’ memo. H EADLINES T ODAY accessed the Memo that said, “ The department will appeal automatically since reference to legal opinion is time consuming and involves a lot of paper work.” The veterans who fought and won wars at the Line of Control, appeared to be fighting a losing battle against the bureaucracy in the MoD. Ex- servicemen were up in arms about MoD’s heartless and desperate effort to “ tire them out” in the autumn of their lives. “ Soldiers who fought for the country and bled for the country were being forced to sweat it out in a superior court, despite winning cases for enhanced pension in the Armed Forces Tribunal ( AFT). Not many disabled soldiers or veterans can afford to keep fighting from the AFT to High Court to the Supreme Court, and so many gave up disgusted,” said lawyer and activist Major ( retd) Navdeep Singh.
MoD initially defended the order saying the intension was to simplify the process of decision- making and avoid delays.
However, several veterans were ready to challenge the bizarre order legally.
In a letter to Antony, MP Rajiv Chandrashekhar had written, “ This order smacks of callousness and high- handedness on the part of the government... The order will aggravate the misery of those who have lost their limbs or eyesight or sustained any other grievous harm in the service of the nation.”
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