The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Monday dismissed petitions challenging the Ministry of Defence’s decision to provide 100 per cent reservation in favour of war widows, widows of defence personnel killed on duty, disabled soldiers, ex-servicemen and spouses, and widows of ex-servicemen in allotment of regimental shops situated at Chandimandir in various formations or establishments of the Army.
The Western Command of the Indian Army is located at Chandimandir in Panchkula. The division bench of Chief Justice Ravi Shanker Jha and Justice Arun Palli upheld the policy decision dated January 17, 2018, after hearing the matter which had been pending since July 2019, on a day-to-day basis since February 5.
The court had in 2019 restrained the authorities from taking any coercive action against the petitioners in view of a similar stay granted by the Delhi and Madhya Pradesh high courts in cases filed there. The petitioners here were allottees of shops in question under the earlier policy, which provided for a reservation of only 30 per cent for defence personnel, i.e. war widow and others. A detailed order was not immediately available on Monday.
Additional Solicitor General of India Satya Pal Jain, on behalf of the Centre, had argued that the petitioners have no fundamental right to apply for the shops as they are located within the military area and meant only for soldiers or their families and not for the public at large. It was also contended by Jain that the number of casualties on the border in the recent past have increased and therefore there is a need for rehabilitation of the families of Armymen.
The Delhi High Court had in July 2019 upheld the same policy and ruled that the object of such policy is to rehabilitate ex-servicemen and their families who are in need of such welfare measures and “this is precisely the object of opening family facilities by defence establishments”. It was also noted that the regimental shops are constructed by regimental funds and belong to the establishment concerned of the Armed Forces.
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