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A day after India celebrated its 61st Republic Day, the Supreme Court rued the governments reluctance and red-tapism in granting pension to confirmed freedom fighters.

“This appeal is an example and reflection of the way we treat our freedom fighters inasmuch that while we applaud their contribution to the fight for freedom, we deny them a pension,” a bench of Justice Harjit Singh Bedi and Justice T.S. Thakur said, dismissing a lawsuit by the Tamil Nadu government, challenging a Madras High court order to accord a freedom fighters’ pension to A. Manickam Pillai.

“The pension, which, even if granted amounts to a pittance, and while many who apply are under financial distress, all without exception wear it as a badge of honour and as a certificate of recognition of their efforts in the struggle for independence,” the bench observed Wednesday, highlighting the plight of freedom fighters.

The Tamil Nadu government had come to the apex court, challenging a Madras High Court judgment of June 26, 2006, holding Pillai to be a bona fide freedom fighter, needing the pension.

The high court had ordered the government to provide pension to Piilai saying that even two district collectors and a district level screening committee had ruled that he indeed was a freedom fighter and had been imprisoned during the British period.

The high court had pointed out that even the government had not denied that Pillai was not freedom fighter, yet it was opposed to grant of pension to him because his plea was not accompanied by a certificate by a fellow co-prisoner, who was also empowered by the state government to testify that the applicant was indeed a freedom fighter.

The high court had lamented that Pillai, however, had appended a certificate by anther co-prisoner, who though not an authorised prisoner to certify fellow co-prisoners, had elaborated upon Pillais role in freedom struggle, describing the days spent together in jail and had recommended the pension for him.

Yet the government was not inclined to grant him the pension, it said.

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