Annoyed over the denial of disability pension to a Lieutenant who had been medically invalided out of the Army in 2002, the Chandigarh bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has asked the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to provide a list of its properties worth Rs 30 lakh for attachment for non-compliance of the decision.
The bench, headed by Justice Surinder Singh Thakur, passed these orders after learning that the officer had not been released his pension till date despite judicial orders to this effect.
Lieutenant Amit Vasudev was invalided out of the Army in 2002 just after he was commissioned on account of Spondylolisthesis (displacement of vertebra) but was not released disability pension and was informed that his disability was ‘neither attributable to, nor aggravated by service’. In the year 2013 however, when he obtained his documents under the RTI Act, it was discovered that his disability had actually been declared ‘attributable/aggravated’ and pension was illegally denied to him.
When Lieutenant Vasudev approached the AFT for relief, pointing out that he was made to suffer all these years and made to live a life of indignity without any financial support or healthcare, the Army admitted that his case was not processed for release of pension for more than a decade due to an ‘oversight’ at their end. The Tribunal had then directed the authorities to release his pension with 10 per cent interest.
When pension was still not disbursed, the officer was forced to file an execution petition before the Tribunal and finally the Army issued him the sanction letter for pension but without interest but still pension was not released to him.
Observing that the disabled officer who was illegally denied pension for the last 14 years was still being made to run from pillar to post despite a judicial order in his favour, the Chandigarh Bench has directed the MoD to submit a list of its properties for attachment.
Advocates familiar with the ADFT procedures say that many orders of various benches of the AFT remain unimplemented by the MoD. The AFT Act does not provide any provision for ‘civil contempt’ or procedure for execution of its orders. It was only after a decision of the Kerala High Court in Shihabudeen Versus PCDA of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in the PIL titled Maj Navdeep Singh Versus Union of India ordaining that the AFT should invoke powers of criminal contempt and the execution procedure of a civil court under the code of civil procedure, that compliance of decisions of the Tribunal came to be initiated.
In December 2014, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had taken a strong note that the AFT was not taking coercive action against Army authorities for willful obedience and breach of its orders that non compliance would result in exemplary costs personally recoverable from the officers responsible, increase in the rate of interest awarded and action may also be initiated under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.