Challenging anomaly that affects the benefits of military personnel dying or injured on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, the Chandigarh bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has issued notice to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) on a petition filed by widow of a Naib Subedar who has been denied ‘liberalised family pension’.
As per existing rules, widows of soldiers who die on any International Border (IB) or the Line of Control with Pakistan (LOC) or in any other operational area, are entitled to a higher “liberalised family pension” but the same benefit is not extended to deaths on LAC with China.
Rajbir’s husband, Naib Subedar Gurmel Singh, was serving in a battalion of the Sikh Regiment and died while moving with a patrolling party during face-off with troops of the People Liberation Army of China in March 2016. During the course of the patrolling he suffered sudden chest pain in the inclement weather and terrain and died. Her claim of liberalised family pension was, however, not found admissible by defence authorities as the death had not taken place at the IB or the LOC but at the LAC which was not covered under the rules.
Challenging the gray area in rules and the discrimination between deaths and disabilities on the LOC vis-a-vis the LAC, Rajbir Kaur has said the net result of the death and the circumstances in both areas is absolutely the same.
A Committee of Experts constituted by former defence minister Manohar Parrikar to reduce litigation had also come down heavily upon the MoD for denying benefits in such cases. The committee had found that “it was extremely unfortunate that benefits to similarly placed individuals in parallel on-ground situations were being held back due to such hyper-technical reasons or lack of paper-formalities”.
The panel had also deprecated the attitude of financial entities in denying benefits on flimsy grounds. It had observed, “We are at a loss to comprehend why negative energy and multiple reams of papers should be wasted on such issues concerning benefits of soldiers and deceased soldiers, which are anyway minor from the organisational point of view, when there are much more important financial matters worth pondering over. We find it difficult to digest as to how logic itself is being stretched to illogical limits due to an all-pervasive pessimistic environment just to deny benefits to our men and women in uniform”.