Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Miffed SC to defence secretary: How about spending 10 days in high-altitude Army posts

New Delhi: A little over a month ago, the Supreme Court had suggested to the Centre to keep its Armed Forces Personnel happy by providing them with an independent pay tribunal where they could ventilate their grievances instead of returning their medals and burning artificial limbs. But finding the response lukewarm, a Bench comprising Justices Markandey Katju and T S Thakur expressed unhappiness in no uncertain terms and termed the bureaucracy in the ministry of defence insensitively effective. Sitting somewhere in a plush office in Delhi and finding fault in each proposal is easy.The defence secretary must be sent for 10 days to the high-altitude posts.He will at least see first hand the conditions in which these people serve the country, the Bench said.

To minimise further flow of anguished remarks, Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam, who appeared for the Centre, sought time to respond to the proposal but not before clarifying that  Govt was getting objections to the proposal for setting up a panel to look into pay-related and pension-related grievances of Armed Forces Personnel. The Bench reluctantly gave a final opportunity to Subramaniam to come back with a proper response from the Govt to the suggestion of setting up an independent pay tribunal but also reminded him that on the last two occasions, the government had done nothing better than seeking further time.

"Your bureaucrats are not bothered. People in the Army are returning medals in thousands and some have even burnt their artificial limbs in protest.They get a feeling now that these bureaucrats do not hear them.If you have a commission,at least some steam (anger among the armed forces personnel) will be let out, the Bench reasoned. Subramaniam said,I see value in what the court has suggested,but this involves more than one ministry.Even the recurring liability would be high.

The Bench posted the matter to November 8 asking the Centre to respond specifically to the suggestion, setting out the areas and parameters it was willing to consider.The apex court on September 8 had suggested setting up an independent pay tribunal chaired by a retired Supreme Court judge that would be a recommen-datory body.

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