Dismissing the petition of a woman cadet who was rendered disabled during training and had sought “rounding off” of her disability from 40 to 50 per cent as per policy applicable to serving military personnel, the Delhi High Court has ruled that cadets/trainees and personnel of the armed forces fall into two distinct categories.
The bench of Justices Rajiv Sahai Endlaw and Asha Menon have ruled that the cadets are yet to complete training and are yet not part of the armed forces. “Therefore, their scheme is for grant of ‘ex gratia awards’ for disablement or even death during training,” the bench noted, while disposing off a petition filed by ex-cadet Shreya Manhas of Officers Training Academy (OTA), Chennai.
The petitioner had joined the OTA on October 15, 2010, after she was thoroughly examined by various medical experts and was found absolutely fit and free from any disease or medical disability to undergo the rigorous military training.
In November 2010, during military training, she sustained a neck injury resulting in a permanent disability — a ‘fracture neck of femur LT’. She was found unfit for Army service by a duly constituted Release Medical Board (RMB) held at Command Hospital (Air Force), Bangalore, which assessed the disability of the petitioner at 40 per cent for life and the disability was also attributable to military service. Accordingly, the cadet was invalidated out of service in December 2011.
The petitioner has stated that it was only after prolonged correspondence with the MoD that she was finally sanctioned ex-gratia disability award at the rate of 40 per cent for life in March 2014. The petitioner has claimed that she was entitled to ‘rounding off/broad banding’ as per the policy of the Government of India and entitled to receive the disability award for 50 per cent disability for life.
“She accordingly approached the respondents vide appeal dated October 10, 2016, requesting them for ‘broad banding/rounding off’ of the ex-gratia disability award from 40 to 50 per cent. However, by the impugned order dated November 8, 2016, the said request was rejected,” the court noted.
Thereafter, she approached the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) for relief but the AFT dismissed her application on the ground of lack of jurisdiction as being an ex-cadet, she was not covered under the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007. Thereafter she filed a petition in Delhi High Court in July 2018.
The high court bench has stated that the petitioner cannot claim discrimination. “Having not yet entered the services and having remained only at the threshold, the petitioner cannot claim equality with those who have served the armed forces before misfortune hit them. The grant of more benefits to such members of the services cannot be extended to cadets/trainees as they have not served the armed forces but were only being prepared for it,” the order states.
The bench further said that while it can sympathize with the petitioner, the sympathy cannot translate into extending benefits to her by mixing up two policies intended for two different categories, namely, cadets/trainees on the one hand and the service personnel on the other.