Taking exception to the Defence ministry issuing a communication on January 20 stating that the arrears of ‘One Rank, One Pension (OROP)’ scheme will be paid in four half-yearly instalments, the Supreme Court on Monday asked the government to withdraw the same.
“The Defence ministry cannot take the law in its hand…Withdraw the communication of January 20 which is directly contrary to our order… or will ask the secretary defence to present himself in court,” Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud presiding over a three-judge bench told Attorney General R Venkataramani.
The bench, also comprising Justices P S Narasimha and J B Pardiwala, made it clear that once the communication is withdrawn, the court will consider the government’s request for more time.
“First ask him to withdraw it. After that we will consider your application for extension of time. Let him first withdraw it otherwise he will have to answer… He must first withdraw the communication of January 20 and then ask us that in these circumstances, more time may be given, we will consider the application,” the CJI added.
Fixing the matter for hearing next on March 20, the court also asked the AG to provide the court by then a note explaining what had been done and what remained.
“File a comprehensive note. Show us what exactly has been done, what remains now and what is the time schedule and the shortest possible time that you can pay to them,” the court told the AG.
Agreeing, the AG said “in fact I had told the department that I would like to personally take it over and see that it is done in good time”. He added that an instalment of Rs 2,000 crore will be paid before March 31.
Stating that there were a lot of issues in the execution, he said, “Let’s understand that the dimensions are working out. 28 lakh pensioners, of which 7 lakh have now been cleared. Digitisation of the entire information, pension be disbursed through various modes, we have to consolidate the entire information, there are a lot of issues involved in the operation”.
Senior Advocate Huzefa Ahmadi said 4 lakh pensioners had died during the pendency of the petition and it absolves the government from paying them anything. But the court clarified that the pension arrears would be paid to their dependents.