Delhi High Court imposes cost on Union of India for lackadaisical approach while dealing with a 96-year-old freedom fighter

delhi high court

Delhi High Court: A petition filed by a 96 year old freedom fighter seeking grant of ‘Swatantrata Sainik Samman Pension’ from the date of application, i.e. 29.03.1982, along with interest @ 18% per annum. Subramonium Prasad, J., directed respondents to release the pension of the petitioner and imposed costs on the Union of India for their lackadaisical approach while dealing with a freedom fighter who had suffered for the country about half-a-century back and had not expected to be rewarded for the imprisonment suffered by them.

The petitioner actively participated in the Quit India Movement and was declared as a proclaimed offender in 1943. The petitioner applied for ‘Swatantrata Sainik Samman Pension’ in the prescribed format along with other relevant documents by which the petitioner was declared as absconder/proclaimed offender. The Petitioner’s case was placed before the State Advisory Committee, Bihar for consideration and the Advisory Committee vide letter dated 07-02-1983 recommended the name of the petitioner for grant of the ‘Swatantrata Sainik Samman Pension’. The Home (Special) Department, Govt. of Bihar recommended the case of the petitioner, reiterated by the State of Bihar. Since no response was forthcoming from the Central Government, the petitioner made a representation to the Bihar Government requesting it to send a reminder to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.

After several reminders, a letter was sent by the Government of India to the Government of Bihar stating that the record of the Petitioner was not available with the Ministry of Home Affairs and requested verified copies of the relevant documents pertaining to the claim of the petitioner. The Government of India asked for the originals of the Court record, the Petitioner’s application form and a fresh recommendation and verification report of the State Government. It is stated that in compliance of the said letter, the State Government stated that all the original documents had already been sent to the Ministry vide letter dated 14-03-1985 and only photocopies of the requisite documents are now available with the State Government and the same were also shared with the Ministry. It was further stated in the said letter that since only photocopies of the original documents were available with the State Government, it is not possible to re-verify and make a fresh recommendation qua the Petitioner. Aggrieved by the inaction of Respondents 1, 2 and 3, the petitioner filed the present petition.

The Court noted that the instant Writ Petition reflects the completely sad situation. A 96-year-old Freedom Fighter has been made to wait for over 40 years for his pension. The ‘Swatantrata Sainik Samman Pension’ Scheme was announced by the Government of India to honour the freedom fighters who gave their seat and blood to secure the freedom of the country. A 96-year-old freedom fighter has been made to run from pillar to post to get his rightful pension. The inaction of the Central Government is actually an insult to the freedom fighter who was declared as a proclaimed offender and probably his entire land would have been attached in the proceedings initiated by the British Government.

The Court further noted that on perusal of the material on record and the counter affidavit, it is clear that the State of Bihar has recommended the name of the petitioner herein for the grant of Freedom Fighter Pension to the petitioner. The Government of Bihar had sent the original documents to the Central Government vide its letter dated 14-03-1985 but the Central Government lost them. The Government of Bihar, in its recent letter dated 14-07-2022, has once again verified that the petitioner’s name figures at S.No.24 in notification number G.R. No.707/1942. It is painful to see how the Freedom Fighters are being treated and the insensitivity shown by the Union of India towards Freedom Fighter who has fought for the independence of the country. Thus, the Court was unable to fathom as to why the petitioner is not being given the benefit of the Pension Scheme.

Reliance was placed on Gurdial Singh v. Union of India, (2001) 8 SCC 8, wherein it was observed that

“The standard of proof required in such cases is not such standard which is required in a criminal case or in a case adjudicated upon rival contentions or evidence of the parties. As the object of the Scheme is to honour and to mitigate the sufferings of those who had given their all for the country, a liberal and not a technical approach is required to be followed while determining the merits of the case of a person seeking pension under the Scheme. It should not be forgotten that the persons intended to be covered by the Scheme had suffered for the country about halfa-century back and had not expected to be rewarded for the imprisonment suffered by them.”

The Court directed respondent 1, 2 and 3 to release the pension of the Petitioner within 12 weeks from the date of the order along with the interest @ 6% per annum from 01.08.1980 till the date of payment of the pension amount. The Court further imposed costs of Rs. 20,000/- on the Union of India for their lackadaisical approach.

[Uttim Lal Singh v Union of India, 2023 SCC OnLine Del 7112, decided on 02-11-2023]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr. I. C. Mishra with Mr. Anwar Ali Khan, Advocates for petitioner

Mr. Anurag Ahluwalia, CGSC for R-1 to 3/UoI. Mr. Rohan Gupta, GP Mr. Azmat H. Amanullah and Mr. Nitya Sharma, Adv for R-4/State of Bihar

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