A 97-year-old freedom fighter from Patiala, Mohan Singh, who was part of the Quit India Movement of 1942, has finally got relief as the Punjab and Haryana High Court has restored his Swatantarta Sainik Samman Pension after an eight-year legal battle.
The court has now directed the Punjab government to calculate and pay the complete amount to the petitioner within three months. Mohan Singh was reportedly confined in the Lahore Central Jail for nine months between October 20, 1942, and July 24, 1943, for being a part of the Quit India Movement.
While restoring his pension, Justice Rajesh Bindal observed, “This is an unfortunate litigation in which a freedom fighter, who remained in jail at the time of Quit India Movement, is before this court as his pension under the Swatantarta Sainik Samman Pension Scheme was withdrawn vide order dated 31.12. 2007”.
Speaking to The Indian Express on phone from Patiala, Mohan Singh who was assigned the duty of a messenger during the Quit India Movement, said, “I am happy that I have got justice at last. It is a matter of honour. But what hurts is that no one recognises sacrifices made by freedom fighters during testing times.” Suffering from cancer and hip dislocation, Mohan Singh added, “I was made to fight a war by officials for my pension”.
Mohan Singh’s pension was canceled on the ground that he was not able to establish that he remained in jail. Justice Bindal, however, mentioned in his order that after the case was filed in the High Court, the central government in its reply had submitted that the period during which the petitioner was kept in jail was verified by the Punjab government. The court said, “Hence, rejection of the claim of the petitioner on the ground that he could not establish the period during which he remained in jail, cannot be sustained”.
Appearing for the petitioner, advocate Gagan Pardeep Singh Bal had contended that though the petitioner had played a remarkable role in securing freedom for the country, he was made to struggle for pension despite there being clear cut Supreme Court directions in Gurdial Singh’s case.
Justice Bindal observed that the Supreme Court in Gurdial Singh had said, “As the object of the scheme is to honour and to mitigate the sufferings of those who had given their all for the country, a liberal and not a technical technical approach is required to be followed while determining the merits of the case of a person seeking pension under the scheme.” The Supreme Court had also expressed, “Once the country has decided to honour such freedom fighters, the bureaucrats entrusted with the job of examining the cases of such freedom fighters are expected to keep in mind the purpose and object of the scheme.”