Friday, June 7, 2013

Air chief flags pension issue

By Jugal R. Purohit in New Delhi
THE rift between the uniformed services and the civilian leadership of the Ministry of Defence ( MoD) has widened in recent months over the alleged mistreatment of veterans and war widows with regard to their pay and pension.
Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne, as the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee ( CoSC), has sought Defence Minister A. K. Antony’s intervention in the matter, but to no avail.
The genesis of the spat lies in the MoD’s ‘ selective’ implementation of the Supreme Court order of September 2012 in the Rank Pay case, which the ex- servicemen community won after a long legal battle. After the anomalies emanating from a ‘ faulty’ order were pointed out, the ministry has been unable to rectify its stand.
Letters accessed by this correspondent, written by Browne to Antony on January 18 and May 27, 2013, show the utter disappointment of the uniformed services at the MoD’s conduct. “ The present approach… has given rise to apprehensions in the environment that the delay may be intentional... The beneficiaries to this verdict include many of such officers who retired decades ago and do not have a long time left to wait for their dues. It will be a grave injustice to these veterans if they pass on without getting their rightful arrears,” the IAF chief said in his latest letter.
“ It is with a deep sense of regret that I convey to the Honourable Raksha Mantri about a growing feeling that cases involving Armed Forces personnel are unnecessarily being dragged to higher courts whereas the same could so easily be resolved in the ministry itself,” he added.
In his previous letter to the defence minister on January 18, Browne had stated: “ The implementation order suffers from unprecedented disparity.
It falls much short of expectations.” Lt- Col. ( retd) B. K. Sharma of the Retired Defence Officers Association ( RDOA), which fought the case in the Supreme Court said, “ It is very strange. We met the defence minister twice; the last time we requested him to ensure implementation of court orders.
While he was positive, his ministry does everything to negate that. If this is how they treat veterans which youngster will want to join the armed forces?” The RDOA is said to be planning to file a contempt petition in the apex court against the MoD as soon as the vacation ends.
Despite repeated requests made to the Directorate of Public Relations, MoD’s public relations wing, there was no response. Even written requests made at the office of the secretary, Department of Ex- Servicemen Welfare did not elicit a response.
Genesis of the spat lies in the MoD’s ‘ selective’ implementation of the Supreme Court order of September 2012 in the Rank Pay case
What is the case?
The Rank Pay case is also known as the Major Dhanapalan case. The Supreme Court had envisaged re- fixation of pay for all officers of the Army, Navy & Air Force who were eligible for Rank Pay with effect from 1.1.86, the date of implementation of the Fourth Pay Commission.
However, the MoD implementation letter of December 2012 changed it to ‘ as on 1.1.86’. The SC order had also sought the re- designing of the minimum basic pay in the integrated pay scale of Fourth Pay Commission to avoid different basic pay to similarly placed officers. But the air chief said there has been no explanation as to how and why ‘ with effect from 1.1.86’ was changed to ‘ as on 1.1.86’.
Where is it stuck?
Meetings were held in the MoD on January 30 and March 6, 2013 following ACM Browne’s letter which were attended by officials from MoD finance, expenditure and other departments. It was later learnt that the services were asked to make a statement of case which would be circulated among all and forwarded to the Solicitor General for his comments. But, for all this, the MoD had time till May 31 2013 as per SC orders. According to RDOA, only a handful of officers have been given their due, that too partly, within this deadline, even as a majority remain waiting.
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