Punjab and Haryana High Court warns MoD of contempt action for filing...

Punjab and Haryana High Court warns MoD of contempt action for filing petitions against AFT orders granting disability pension

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Punjab and Haryana High Court warns MoD of contempt action for filing petitions against AFT orders granting disability pension

The Punjab and Haryana High Court recently cautioned the Ministry of Defence (MoD) that it would initiate contempt of court proceedings against the officers of MoD for filing appeals against orders of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) granting disability pension [Union of India & Ors v. Balwinder Singh and Anr].

The division bench of Acting Chief Justice Ritu Bahri and Justice Aman Chaudhary took stern note of one such petition recently filed by the Centre and asked why it should not impose costs of ₹10 lakh on the petitioners for filing a petition against grant of disability pension.

“On the next date of hearing, learning arguing counsel for petitioners will assist, as to why contempt proceedings may not be initiated against the Department for filing of petitions against the orders passed by the Armed Forces Tribunal granting disability pension,” the Court said.

It made the observation while noting that such petitions were being filed despite the issue regarding the disability pension having attained finality with Supreme Court’s decision in Dharambir Singh vs. Union of India and Union of India vs. RajbirSingh.

In Dharambir Singh’s case, the top court had ruled that that for the purpose of determining a question whether the cause of a disability or death resulting from disease is or is not attributable to service, it is immaterial whether the cause giving rise to the disability or death occurred in an area declared to be a field service/active service area or under normal peace conditions.”

Similarly, the top court in Rajbir Singh’s case had ruled that medical disability “must be presumed to have been arisen in the course of service which must, in the absence of any reason recorded by the Medical Board, be presumed to have been attributable to or aggravated by military service.”

The petition filed by the Union government before the High Court was adjourned to January 16 after the counsel representing the government submitted that Additional Solicitor General Satya Pal Jain, who is to argue the case, was not available.

While granting the short accommodation, the Court said,

“He will also assist as to why costs of ₹10 lakh be not imposed upon the petitioners in this case. A senior officer from the concerned Department shall remain present in Court on the next date of hearing”.

Advocate Anita Balyan represented the Central government.

The Supreme Court too had on previous occasions come down upon the MoD for filing appeals against grant of disability pensions.

In March 2022, the top court had expressed displeasure at the manner in which the Centre was filing appeals against grant of disability pensions even where the legal issue was settled.

Raksha Mantri should personally ensure that the rot that has set in the CGDA must be removed surgically without delay. The appointments of Financial Advisor, MoD and the head of CGDA must be vetted in detail for both competency and integrity. No promotion to these appointments be made just on seniority.