Acting on a petition filed by a serving Colonel seeking the representation of all stakeholders before a committee looking into the Seventh Pay Commission (7th CPC) anomalies, the Punjab and Haryana High Court Wednesday issued notice to the Central Government and has also directed that, in the meantime, the anomaly committees shall take into account the views of the affected defence personnel.
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In his plea, Col Preetpal Singh Grewal has pointed out that the Government has constituted ‘Anomalies Committees’ to look into 7th CPC recommendations. These committees are granting hearings to civil employees, their associations and the civil establishment but not to defence personnel or even the defence services or establishment which, ironically, constitute the highest number of employees and pensioners. The writ petition avers that no information at all was even given to the defence services about the institution of the committee and it was through press reports that the fact came to be known that the Committee had held several meetings with civil employees.
The petition states that there rightly operates a statutory bar on military employees on forming associations and this fact should have resulted in the system being more sensitive for hearing the views of defence personnel, and hence not granting any opportunity of hearing or interaction even to the official defence establishment is against the principles of natural justice as ruled by Constitutional Courts. The plea also says that the Supreme Court has already held that defence personnel should not be treated in a ‘shabby manner’ or denuded of rights that are available to other citizens.
It is also averred in the petition that even the Standing Committee on Welfare of Ex-servicemen which was ordered to hold meetings every three months by none less than the Defence Minister has not even held a single meeting thereby undermining political authority by lower officials. The petition has emphasized resolution of differences in a conciliatory manner by way of mature governance rather than ham-handed measures which increase the gap between various services. It states that lack of reaching-out by highest echelons of government and a perceived trust deficit leads to inimical elements taking advantage to the detriment of national interest by spreading discontentment through anecdotal hearsay in social circles and social media.
Besides opportunity of hearing to affected stakeholders, the petition has sought the institution of a suitable alternative participative mechanism in view of the statutory bar on forming associations, which could meet at regular intervals wherein issues related to defence personnel could be discussed, reconciled and resolved by way of institutional representation.