Sunday, January 27, 2013

Pension pleas' dismissal: HC comes down on AFT bench

The Punjab and Haryana high court on Friday virtually passed strictures against the Chandigarh bench of AFT, for dismissing the petitions of armed forces personnel seeking disability pension "without application of mind".  Taking up a petition filed by Flight Lieutenant Onkar Singh Bawa (retd), earlier dismissed by the AFT on the medical board's advice, the division bench comprising chief justice Arjan Kumar Sikri and justice Rakesh Kumar Jain said the tribunal should not take the medical board's advice as gospel truth.

This is probably the first such case where the Punjab and Haryana high court has passed strictures against the AFT. The high court once again clarified that it can hear the appeals against the AFT orders. Allowing Bawa's appeal for disability pension, the division bench said the tribunal did not consider the petitioner's arguments and passed the orders. It further emphasised that disability claims of soldiers should be decided after proper application of mind, otherwise the purpose of creating the tribunal was not fulfilled. Appearing for the petitioner, advocate Bhim Sen Sehgal argued that it was unfair on the part of Indian Air Force not to grant disability pension to the retired officer who had devoted 33 years to the nation.

The court, while setting aside the order dated January 14, 2011 of the AFT bench comprising justice NP Gupta and Lt Gen NS Brar (retd) said that neither the order of AFT nor that of the medical board was reasoned. The bench also observed that the AFT should have discussed pension rules and regulations before passing the orders. A resident of SAS Nagar, Bawa was enrolled in the IAF on April 14, 1953, having been found medically fit. Later, he was commissioned as a pilot officer in 1977 in aeronautical engineering (mechanical) branch. However, in August 1986, the medical board at Air Force Central Medical Establishment, New Delhi, downgraded his medical category permanently for the disability, that is, IHD (inferolateral) with cervical spondylosis. He retired in November 1986 and the release medical board assessed his disability at 30% attributable to military service. But later, the Air Force authorities failed in releasing his disability element of pension.
Thereafter, the petitioner approached the AFT in July 2010, which later dismissed his petition on January 14, 2011, forcing him to knock the doors of the Punjab and Haryana high court in April 2011.


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