CHENNAI: Coming to the aid of a former Indian Air Force (IAF) staff, a decade after he was discharged from service because of schizophrenia, the Regional Bench of Armed Forces Tribunal ordered grant of disability benefits to him, declaring that schizophrenia, like any other ailment, can be caused by the stress in defence service.
Gaddam Raja Ravi Kumar, of Karimnagar in Telangana, had joined the IAF as an Equipment Assistant on February 06, 1997. He had an unblemished tenure till he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was invalidated out of service in February 01, 2003.
The Invalidating Medical Board (IMB) considered ‘schizophrenia’ as neither attributable to nor aggravated by military service and the percentage of disablement was assessed as 50 percent for five years. Based on the findings of the IMB, Ravi Kumar was denied disability benefits and other benefits provided to ex-service men.
Unable to take up any job due to the disability and without pension benefits, Ravi Kumar, whose disease got aggravated, eventually became a burden to his family. As his request for financial and medical assistance was rejected by the Ex-Servicemen Welfare Board, he approached the Armed forces Tribunal seeking a direction to grant disability pension and ex-servicemen status with due benefits of ex-servicemen including rehabilitation in any employment scheme allotted to ex-servicemen. The IAF contended that Ravi Kumar was found unfit for service because the symptoms of the condition persisted after medication.
The bench, comprising Justice V Periya Karuppiah and Lt Gen K Surendra Nath, said, “The IAF has categorically failed to give reasons for its opinion that the disease is not attributable to or aggravated by military service. Therefore, we are of the considered view that the presumption of attributability or aggravability has not been dispelled by the respondents through quoting cogent reasons from the opinion of the Invalidating Medical Board and therefore, it ought to have been considered that the applicant was affected by the invalidating disease ‘schizophrenia’ due to military service.”
The bench directed the respondents to pay the arrears of disability pension accrued from the aforesaid date and also to provide all other consequential benefits to a pensioner.