NEW DELHI: The widow of a freedom fighter, who had participated in the 1942 Quit India movement and had remained in jail for 13 days, has lost a legal battle to claim pension under the 'Swatantrata Sainik Samman Pension Scheme, 1980' with the Supreme Court saying he was "ineligible" for the benefit.
The apex court referred to the Centre's order which had pointed out that the man did not meet the eligibility criteria of either having been underground for more than six months or undergone sentence for more than six months to be eligible for the pension scheme.
For the purpose of grant of pension under the 1980 scheme, a freedom fighter is "a person who remained underground for more than six months provided he was: a proclaimed offender; or one on whom an award for arrest/head was announced; or one for whose detention order was issued but not served".
A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and R Banumathi dismissed the appeal filed by the woman, who had moved the apex court challenging the Patna High Court's April 2015 order declining her claim of dependent family pension under the 1980 scheme.
"The high court, in our view, has rightly held that the central government was well within its power to hold that ... (the man) was ineligible to seek pension under the Swatantrata Sainik Samman Pension Scheme, 1980. We do not find any reason warranting interference with the impugned order," the bench said.
According to the petitioner, her husband was arrested in a criminal case emanating from the freedom struggle movement of August 9, 1942 and he had allegedly remained absconding from August 16, 1942 to October 14, 1944.
She contended that her husband was arrested on October 14, 1944 and had remained in jail till October 27, 1944 when he was released on bail and thereafter in January 1945, he was discharged from the case.
The Bihar government in April 1993 had recommended for sanction of freedom fighter's pension to the woman but the central government had declined the recommendation in July 2000 on the ground that statutory mandate of serving minimum six months in detention was not fulfilled in this case.
The woman had challenged the Centre's order in the high court which had in August 2006 directed the authority concerned to pass a fresh order in accordance with the law.
The Centre, however, rejected her application in November 2006 on the ground that she had not produced any satisfactory primary or secondary evidence.
The order was again challenged before a single judge of the high court who disposed of the petition on the ground that findings of the central government were not in consonance with the high court's observations made in its 2006 order.
The Centre had challenged the single judge's order before a division bench which allowed the appeal and held that the single judge had allowed her claim without noticing that no document was produced by her to prove the fact that her husband remained underground for more than six months.
The apex court, in its judgement, noted that "Swatantrata Sainik Samman Pension Scheme, 1980 is a document-based scheme and the documents required for eligibility for 'Samman Pension' as mentioned in the scheme are to be produced by the applicant in support of his claimed suffering, duly verified
and recommended by the state government concerned".
"Due to the discrepancies and ambiguities relating to the documents and also due to non-production of NARC (non-availability of record certificate), benefit of the scheme could not be extended to the appellant," it noted.