NOTE ON APPOINTMENT OF ARMED FORCES
GRIEVANCES REDRESSAL COMMISSION ANDPAYMENT OF RANK PAY TO DEFENCE OFFICERS
1. I.A. No. 9 of 2010 in T.P. (Civil) No. 56/2007, an application for modification/ recalling of final order dated 08.03.2010 and re-hearing of the matter, filed by Union of India came up for hearing today on 15.11.2010. The aforesaid T.P. was filed by the Union of India with a prayer to transfer several writ petitions pending in the various High Courts regarding correct fixation of rank pay as recommended by the IVth Pay Commission and accepted by the Central Government, to be effected from 01.01.1986 in respect of the officers of the Armed Forces and finally decided on 08.03.2010 in favour of the officers.
2. The aforesaid I.A. was listed for hearing before the Bench of Hon’ble Justice Markandey Katju and Hon’ble Justice Gyan Sudha Mishra before Court – 6 as Item No. 4 today i.e. 15.11.2010. Some connected matters were also listed. It may be noted that the Hon’ble Supreme Court has already passed final order in the aforesaid matters on 08.03.2010 and directed the Central Government to pay the rank pay to the affected officers w.e.f. 01.01.1986 along with 6% interest. Surprisingly, instead of implementing the aforesaid directions, UOI had filed an application for modification and recalling of the order dated 08.03.2010 and for re-hearing of the matters. The respondents i.e. writ petitioners in the High Court of Kerala and Ex-servicemen organizations namely Retired Defence Officres Association, Disabled War Veterans of India, Naval Chapter and Purva Sainik Prishad were represented by Advocates, Mr. Mahabir Singh, Gp Capt Karan Singh Bhati (Retd.) and Ms Aishwarya Bhati.
3. In the connected matter, W.P. (Civil) No. 291/2010 – “Pushpawanti Versus Union of India” wherein a pension of rs. 80/- p.m. was being paid to the widow of a highly decorated Major, the Hon’ble Court has been pleased to pass detailed directions for the formation of Commission, headed by Hon’ble Mr. Justice Kuldeep Singh, Retired Judge of the Supreme Court, Hon’ble Mr. Justice S.S. Sodhi, Retired Judge of Allahabad High Court, General V.P. Malik, Former Chief of Army Staff and Lt. General Vijay Oberoi (Retd.) and one member i.e. Civil Servant either serving or retired, to be nominated by the Union of India to look into and make recommendations with regard to the grievances of serving and retired Defence personnel like one rank one pension and other disparities and anomalies, without limiting the scope of reference. The matter will continue to be monitored by the Hon’ble Supreme Court.
4. The Hon’ble Court was very clear on the purpose and backdrop of the need for setting up such a Commission to provide an equitable Forum to look into and make recommendations for a fair redressal of grievances of the Men-In-Uniform, who had been at the receiving end of the Governmental/ Bureaucratic Apathy and indifference for years and decades.
5. The Hon’ble Court was extremely moved with instances of pittance being paid as pension to widows of highly decorated officers who laid down their lives for the Nation and years of indifferent and unfair policies leading to officers and men taking extreme steps of returning their gallantry medals and even burning their artificial limbs which were fixed upon loosing natural limbs in war/ action. The Hon’ble Court had specifically expressed its concern and intention on earlier occasions also when these matters were being heard and had directed the Union of India to file an affidavit on these lines, while expressing that the Commission could be formed by the court suo-moto also, however, the intention was to include the Union of India in the decision making process since such high degree of discontentment which was apparent among the personnel of Defence Forces, is not good for the country.
6. The Union of Indian had filed an additional affidavit in the aforesaid T.P. and connected matters, pursuant to the directions of this Hon’ble Court and the entire tone and tanner of the affidavit was to question the final order dated 08.03.2010 passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court for grant of rank pay with arrears and 6% interest and acting in disregard to the directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court passed on 08.03.2010 and to somehow impress upon the court that all the grievances of defence personnel were being looked into by the Government. Interestingly, the Union of India, through the affidavit of under Secretary in the Ministry of Defence, only consented to referring the issue of fixation of rank pay to the proposed Commission and expressed its inability to consent to any other terms of reference.
7. During the hearing of the matter today, the Hon’ble Court termed the affidavit of the Union of India as contemptuous and disregarded the same. It was clear that the Hon’ble Court was disturbed with the attitude of the Government when the court pointed out that no law required consent from the Union of India to pass directions with regard to the setting up a Commission. The Hon’ble Court also refused to refer the issue of rank pay fixation to the Commission since it has already been settled in favour of the officers by the order of the Hon’ble Supreme court itself dated 08.03.2010 in T.P. (Civil) No. 56/2007. The Application for modification and recalling the order dated 08.03.2010 has been referred to the Chief Justice of India for placing the same before another Bench.