The Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has ordered that troopers injured in pre-Independence wars be given ‘war injury pension’ like those wounded after it, in a relief to a 94-year-old war veteran.
Seeking to end the discrimination in injury benefits to soldiers injured in pre-Independence and post-Independence wars, the Chandigarh Bench of the tribunal said they should be treated equally.
The AFT has also directed the government to identify similarly placed soldiers and release their benefits without forced litigation.
Bhiwani-based 94-year-old Sowar Amar Singh of the Armoured Corps had approached the AFT with a plea that despite having been injured during World War II, he was being paid regular ‘disability pension’ as is admissible in cases of normal diseases incurred during service such as hypertension and heart diseases.
He was not being given a war injury pension that is granted to soldiers disabled in operational areas.
Singh aid that it made no difference that soldiers were fighting for the British Crown during those times since WWII was a war of humanity against fascist forces.
He said the same British Indian Army was inherited post- Independence and the governments of India and Pakistan had assured the British government that they would take care of all such cases. They had also taken over the serving soldiers and pensioners of pre-Independence India.
Singh in his petition had said that though he was being paid disability pension as per the existing government rules and rates, he was being refused the payment of war injury pension.
The government resisted Singh’s claim, saying when war injury pension was initially introduced, it was applicable only to post-Independence wars and disabilities in international ‘peacekeeping missions’.
The concept of war injury pension for disabilities incurred in ‘international wars’ was introduced only in January 1996 vide a letter issued in 2001 but since the soldier was a pre-1996 retiree, the said benefit could not be granted to him.
Holding Singh entitled to the war injury pension, the AFT bench comprising Justice Bansi Lal Bhat and Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra has held that such discrimination could not be perpetrated by distinguishing between injuries suffered in various wars.
The bench in its last week’s order reminded the government that the cut-off date of 1996 in the government letter had already been struck down by the Supreme Court.
Hence, the same could not be used to deny such benefits.
The AFT held Singh entitled to war injury pension with effect from January, 1996.
( Source – PTI )