|WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 419 OF 2016
|DATE OF JUDGEMENT
|16 March 2022
|SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
|INDIAN EX SERVICEMEN MOVEMENT
|UNION OF INDIA
|DIVISION BENCH : Dr. D.Y. CHANDRACHUD,CJI., SURYA KANT,J.,VIKRAM NATH,J.
The petition under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution poses a challenge before the Honourable Supreme Court of India with regard to the manner in which “One Rank, One Pension” scheme for the ex-servicemen of defence forces has been implemented by the respondents. According to the scheme, a uniform amount of pension shall be payable to all the retired armed force personnels, retiring in the same rank after rendering the same duration of service, notwithstanding the date of retirement. And if there’s any future increment in their pension it shall be automatically passed on to the previous pensioners. The change in the implementation of the scheme was challenged by the petitioners because the alteration defeated the very purpose of the scheme, rendering it to be ineffective.
In 1973, the Indira Gandhi- led government introduced the third central pay commission to equate and bring uniformity in the pension of civilians and retired army personnels. This had a considerable impact on the pay scale of pension of the ex-servicemen of defence forces. It resulted in creating disparity in the pension of retired army personnels.
The “One Rank,One Pension”scheme(hereinafter referred to as OROP scheme) is a longstanding demand for implementing a uniform pension setup for the retired armed force personnels. In 2010-2011, the parliament of India considered the demand for OROP scheme presented by the federation of retired army personnels. After taking into consideration, a committee, known as, “koshyari committee” was Constituted to examine and make suitable recommendations in the scheme. Thereafter, a report was submitted by the committee wherein it recommended for the implementation of the scheme. According to the 142nd report of the committee, OROP scheme was defined as a uniform pension to be paid to the ex-servicemen of the armed forces who have retired in the same rank and had rendered the same length of service, irrespective of the retirement date. And if there is any future enhancement in the rate of pension then it should be “automatically passed on” to the past pensioners.The scheme shall be enforced with an ex- post facto effect and the pensioners of the year 2013 shall also be entitled to claim the benefit of OROP scheme. On 17th February, 2014 the Finance Minister assured that the government had accepted the demand for implementation of the scheme from the financial year 2014-15 . On a later date, he reaffirmed the fidelity of the Union Government to implement the scheme. On 7th November 2015, the joint secretary of the Union Government issued a letter to the chiefs of the defence forces, modifying the earlier definition of the scheme and now the revision of the current and past rate of pension had to take place at “regular intervals”, that is, after every five years instead of “automatically” or every year, besides the implementation of the scheme from 1st July 2014.
ISSUES OF THE CASE
- Whether the implementation of the revised definition is violative of article 14 of the Indian Constitution.
- Whether the change in the date of implementation of the scheme is arbitrary.
CONTENTIONS OF THE PETITIONER
- The petitioner submitted that if the scheme is implemented in accordance with the revised definition then the pension drawn by a personnel retiring at an earlier date would be lesser than the pension of a personnel retiring in or after 2014. This will create a condition of disparity in the pension, thereafter defeating the very purpose of the scheme of uniform pension.
- Furthermore, the scheme is subject to revision only after five years and not every year. Hence it deviates from the legal principle of equality enshrined under article 14 of the Constitution.
- With regard to issue 2, the petitioner contended that the date for effective implementation of the scheme was already fixed as 1st April 2024 but it was arbitrarily shifted to 1st July 2024, leading to a considerable delay in the implementation of the scheme.
CONTENTION OF THE RESPONDENT
- The respondent contended that it is not expedient to revise the definition every year and that is why the scheme has been subjected to revision at a regular interval, that is, after every five years. The Union Government has undertaken to ensure an element of uniformity in the pension which is the main objective of the scheme.
- It was further contended that the decision of the government can only be challenged on legal principles but the petitioners are attempting to seek the most beneficial interpretation of OROP. The disparity in pension, purported by the petitioners is wrongly depicted by them and an artificial disparity has been shown by them.
- In reference to issue 2, respondents submitted that the purpose of re-fixing the implementation date from 1st April 2024 to 1st July 2024 was not to cause any undue delay but to extend the implementation date so as to increase the budget for appropriate disbursement of arrears of pension.
- It was held that the term “automatically” does not relate to any time period as wrongly construed by the petitioners. There is fallacy in the submission of the petitioners on the point that the Union Government has not implemented the scheme in accordance with the original decision.
- The expression “automatically passed on” should not be related to time period to cipher any benefit rather the manner in which revision of the pension shall take place. Therefore, the decision of the government to revise the pension scheme at a regular interval of five years is not violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
- The court held that a further date was opted by the government to determine an appropriate budget and to inflate the base salary for the computation of pension.
- The court accordingly ordered and directed to pay arrears of pension to all the eligible ex- servicemen pensioners within three months.
In the case of “Indian Ex servicemen movement v/s Union Of India” the primary significance of implementation of the OROP scheme is to bridge the gap of pension arising between the earlier and later pensioners. In the light of justice, equality and nationality a uniform pay scale is of utmost importance and the state should ensure payment of uniform pension to the retired personnels.
This Article is written by Nandini Sharma, student of Shambhunath Institute of Law, intern at Legal Vidhiya.
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