Thursday, March 11, 2010

FINALITY IN MAJ AK DHANAPALAN CASE - SC relief to officers over pay anomalies Orders arrears with 6 pc interest to all affected

 Vijay Mohan, Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 9

Ruling that rank pay forms part of basic salary, the Supreme Court, in a significant decision affecting thousands of armed forces personnel, granted arrears arising out of anomalies in the fixation of pay consequent to the Fourth Pay Commission. Upholding an earlier High Court ruling, the apex court has also ordered that interest at the rate of 6 per cent be paid on the arrears. The Fourth Pay Commission recommendations were implemented with effect from January 1, 1986.

Legal experts are of the opinion that this would require re-fixation of pay based on the Fourth and in some cases Fifth Pay Commission. Though the calculation of the exact amount of arrears could be a time consuming and tedious exercise, some officers estimate that they could amount from several thousand rupees to a few lakh rupees, depending upon the rank and length of reckonable service of an individual.
After the Fourth Pay Commission, an integrated pay scale of Rs 2,300-5,100 was implemented for officers from the rank of second lieutenant to brigadier. In addition, rank pay ranging from Rs 200 to Rs 1,200 was authorised to officers from the rank of captain to brigadier, which was to be added into the basic pay for all intents and purposes. However, while fixing the pay in the new scales, an amount equal to the rank pay was deducted from the emoluments resulting in financial loss to all affected officers. Hence all officers holding the rank of captain to brigadier as on January 1986 suffered cumulative losses.

Deciding a case filed by Maj AK Dhanapalan, the Kerala High Court had termed this deduction of rank pay as illegal. An SLP filed by the Union government against this order was also dismissed, though not on merits but on technical grounds of limitation. Soon thereafter, many similar petitions were filed in various high courts all over the country. These were clubbed together and transferred to the Supreme Court to be heard along with an SLP of similar nature that had arisen out of a case that was allowed on the basis of the judgement in Dhalapalan’s case.

The Supreme Court yesterday upheld the judgement in Dhalapalan’s case, delivered in 1998, and the apex court granted relief to all similarly placed officers. Some officers had also contended that incorrect fixation for pay in 1986 also had an adverse effect in pay fixation during subsequent pay commissions.
A large number of veterans and ex-servicemen’s organisations had also written to the defence minister and the prime minister in this regard. In their letters to the government, some veterans had estimated that about 40,000 to 50,000 officers, both serving and retired including widows would be directly affected.

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