The Chandigarh bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has imposed a cost of Rs 30,000 on the Union of India for its delay in releasing arrears of war injury pension to an Army officer, Maj Jasbeer Singh, who lost an eye and a leg in a landmine blast on the Chinese border in Sikkim in 1966 while clearing a mine field and was decorated with a Sena Medal for gallantry.
The bench has observed that the arrears to the officer were to be given from 1978, the year in which he was medically boarded out of the Army due to his injuries, and said the government had approached the issue of release of arrears to him “in a stone hearted and headstrong fashion”.
The bench observed, “The situation in which the applicant has been placed by his sincere discharge of his duty towards his motherland .i.e. 100 per cent disability on account of loss of a leg and an eye while clearing the mines which were laid to defend our borders against the enemy, deserved an empathetic and humane approach”.
Maj Jasbeer Singh’s left right foot up to ankle was blown off, and subsequently the leg was amputated and his left eye was ripped open. He continued to serve in the Army from 1966, when he got injured, to September 1978 when he was boarded out of the Army on account of his injuries. However, instead of war injury pension, he was granted disability pension. It was in 2013, after consistent efforts on his part, that the officer won injury pension with effect from July 2015, the date of his representation, instead of the date of his invalidation in September 1978.
When Major Jasbeer Singh approached the AFT to get the arrears due to him from the year 1978, the government urged that the tribunal should restrict the award of arrears to three years only. “The submission has only flabbergasted us. The arrears now being claimed by the applicant admittedly fell due to him on his invalidation. These have been wrongly withheld by the respondents. It is improper to say the least on the part of the Union of India to plead the bar of limitation against such claim of a soldier who would have better died than survive with 100 per cent disability earned by him while serving the nation,”.
Noting that Major Jasbeer Singh was made to run from pillar to post to get his legitimate dues, the bench observed it is was sad commentary on how a valiant soldier had been treated. Accordingly, the bench ordered that arrears of war injury pension should be paid to him from September 1978 with an interest of 9 per cent per annum and also imposed a cost of Rs 30,000 on the respondents.