In a move likely to rattle lakhs of ex-servicemen, the NDA government has taken a decision to implement the one rank, one pension” (OROP) scheme only for retired major generals since the Supreme Court verdict ordering the scheme was only with regard to the two-star rank.
Additional solicitor general Pinky Anand Wednesday told a bench headed by Justice TS Thakur that the 2008 SC judgment ordering OROP on a petition filed by a retired major general would be rolled out “within the next four to five days.” The government is facing contempt proceedings before the SC for not abiding by its earlier verdict in the case.
Anand told HT, “We would comply with the judgment in the next four to five days. It would be with respect to major generals, which is the subject matter before the court. This would mean officers who retired pre and post 2006 would get equal pensions.”
The decision to award OROP only to two-star officers could open floodgates of litigation as close to three million defence pensioners are waiting for the scheme to be implemented. Also, several major generals are unlikely to accept enhanced pensions as they may be seen as letting down junior officers and jawans.
Major General Satbir Singh ( retd), who heads the Indian Ex-servicemen Movement and has been at the forefront of the fight for OROP, told HT, “There will be a deluge of litigation if the government grants OROP only to major generals. How can I accept higher pension when jawans and widows are being denied OROP. I will never be able to look them in the eye.”
He said the move suggested the government wanted the SC to be flooded with petitions. “The PM said he was destined to grant OROP. Where is that assurance now,” Singh asked.
Taking note of the ASG’s submissions, the bench said it would hear the contempt petitions filed by 73 retired major generals after six weeks. It, however, gave liberty to the petitioners’ counsel Nidhesh Gupta to move the court in case the government failed to live up to its commitment.
Gupta contended the government had been promising OROP to the veterans for long. “Officers are growing old waiting in anticipation. Some of the petitioners are now unable to walk,” he told the bench, reminding it about the Centre’s assurance on February 18 to implement OROP within three months when the matter was last heard.