The Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), Chandigarh Bench, has allowed the ordinary family pension and other pensionary and death-related benefits to Jabita Devi, a widow of a soldier who died during unauthorised period of absence in March 2011.
The order, passed by the bench of judicial member Rajesh Chandra and administrative member S C Mukul, brings relief to widows of those soldiers who die in harness during unauthorised period of absence while in service but before ex-parte dismissal.
The late husband of Jabita Devi, rifleman Jogender Singh,was a soldier of 14 RAJ RIF and went home on part of annual leave from April 4 to April 24, 2011. While on leave, he developed chest pain and started undergoing treatment at his home town.
While suffering from the problem at home he ultimately died on June 4, 2011 on account of a heart attack (Ischemic Heart Disease).
Since, he had overstayed leave from April 24 onwards, he had been declared a ‘deserter’ and had admittedly died during unauthorised absence.
As per the petitioner’s counsel, “the records office refused to process Jabita Devi’s claim for ordinary family pension and other pensionary and death-related benefits”.
The opponent’s argument was that the petitioner’s husband had died during unauthorized absence and that it was not attributable to service.
However, during arguments, the counsel of the petitioner pointed out, “if the death of the petitioner’s husband was `not attributable’ to service, then she is fully entitled to receive ordinary family pension (in `attributable’ cases, special family pension is granted).
Moreover, there is no minimum qualifying service requirement for earning an ordinary family pension and the family of a person with even single day of service is entitled to the pension.”
Further, Army Instruction 51 of 1980 clearly provides that family pension shall only be refused to a person if he dies by way of execution of a death sentence.
After hearing the arguments, on January 22, the bench allowed the ordinary pensionary benefits to Jabita Devi.