Defence Ministry Withdraws Order on Disability Pensions
Following strong protests from ex-servicemen, the Ministry of Defence has withdrawn a controversial order issued by one of its departments that challenges any court order on paying disability and pension benefits to retired personnel automatically, without application of mind.
Defence Minister A K Antony has informed independent Rajya Sabha member Rajeev Chandrasekhar in a letter on February 8 that “in view of concerns expressed as well as procedural complications, it has been decided to revert to status quo ante and withdraw earlier instructions” issued by the Department of Ex-servicemen Welfare (DESW).
The office memo from the DESW was issued on January 2 this year and it had asked the department’s legal officers that they should appeal automatically to the Supreme Court in all cases decided by lower courts against the MoD in matters relating to ex-servicemen disability and pension benefits. The DESW had reasoned that the automatic appeal would be a quicker way to handle cases that went against the MoD on matters relating to ex-servicemen, as reference to legal opinion on court orders was time-consuming and involved a lot of paper work.
Chandrasekhar and a few ex-servicemen had written to Antony, noting that the DESW order smacked of “callousness and high-handedness” and it went against the very responsibility that the department was formed to execute.
They pointed out to the Defence Minister that several thousands of ex-servicemen and their families fighting such cases for what is due to them would have to dip into their savings to fight legal cases, right up to the Supreme Court.
“The DESW order will further aggravate their misery and cause much hardship to the brave men and women, who, after all lose their limbs and eyesight, and sustain grievous harm to themselves in the service of the nation,” the letter from Chandrasekhar noted.
The ex-servicemen wanted the MoD to annul the order and Antony responded to the request, saying the DESW would continue to follow its previous procedure of legal opinion on court orders before any appeal is filed in the Supreme Court.