Terming bogus claims as the bane of welfare schemes, the Supreme Court has said that the government was duty-bound to take ‘stern action’ to discourage the malpractice.
‘Any complacency on the part of the government in taking action against bogus claims under any scheme would encourage bogus claims under all schemes, by undeserving candidates who are well connected and influential,’ an apex court bench of Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice H.L. Gokhale said in a judgment.
Writing the judgment for the bench, Justice Raveendran said that ‘false claimants walking away with the benefits meant for genuine and deserving candidates have become a bane of several schemes’.
The apex court, in its judgment delivered Aug 20, upheld the decision of the central government and the Orissa government to stop the freedom fighters pension (FFP) of Chaudhary Nayak who succeeded in securing the pension by producing fake documents of his conviction and imprisonment in 1943 and of his date of birth.
Nayak was the headmaster of a school in Bhadrak in Balasore district of Orissa when he made this false and fabricated representation.
Nayak’s bluff was called when S. Sanyasi Charan Das filed a public interest litigation in the Orissa High court saying that Nayak claimed FFP on false and fabricated documents.
The petition led to an inquiry by the state government resulting in the suspension of Nayak’s FFP. The high court, however, set aside the decision to stop the payment of FFP to Nayak.
The central and Orissa governments moved the apex court to challenge the verdict of the high court.
Incidentally, Nayak died while the case was being heard in the Supreme Court. His wife fought the case after his death.
‘The grant of FFP to bogus claimants producing false and fabricated documents is as bad as genuine freedom fighters being denied pension,’ the judgment said.
‘The only way to respect the sacrifices of freedom fighters is to ensure that only genuine freedom fighters get the pension,’ the court said.
‘This means that the government should weed out false and fabricated claims and cancel the grant when the bogus nature of the claim comes to light,’ the court said.
Referring to an old judgment, the court said many freedom fighters even refused to receive such pension as they felt that this would amount to putting a premium on their patriotism.
On the other hand, there were several unscrupulous persons who made false claims and received the benefits, the court said.
Noting that the FFP scheme was introduced with the ‘noble intention’ of honouring those who fought for the freedom of the country, the court said that the government should not allow such false claimants to mock at the genuine freedom fighters.
‘What is rather disturbing is the fact that many false claimants have taken advantage of the observations of this court that the authorities processing the applications should not be very rigid or technical in scrutinizing the applications for FFP,’ the judgment said.
The central government told the court that as of now (May 31, 2010), 170,813 freedom fighters or their dependents were entitled for the FFP.
However, at present there were 60,000 people who were getting pension or family pension as freedom fighters or their dependents.
The average monthly pension of a freedom fighter is Rs.12,400. After the death of a pensioner his or her spouse continues to get the money for the rest of the life. After the death of a freedom fighter and his or her spouse, a pensioner’s dependent unmarried daughter gets Rs.3,000 per month till she gets married.
The total expenditure under the FFP scheme in 2009-10 was Rs.785 crore.