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Armed Force Tribunal (AFT): A Division Bench of Justice Virender Singh (Chairperson) and Air Marshal B.B.P Sinha (Member) dismissed an application by the applicant under Section 14 of the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007.

The applicant was enrolled in Army in 2003 as a Signalman and was invalided out from service in 2012 in low Medical Category under Rule 13(3) III (iii) of the Army Rules, 1954. At the time of invalidment from service, the Invaliding Medical Board (IMB) assessed his disability ‘Alcohol Dependence Syndrome’ at 1-5% for life and opined the disability to be neither attributable to nor aggravated (NANA) by service and not connected with service due to habitual disorder. The applicant approached the respondents for grant of disability pension but it was rejected.

The following were the two issues before the Tribunal:

  1. Whether the disability of the applicant i.e. ‘Alcohol Dependence Syndrome’ could be attributable to or aggravated by military service?
  2. Whether the disability percentage has been decided correctly?

The Tribunal held that alcohol dependence syndrome is primarily a disease where an individual cannot control his excessive drinking habits. The disease leads to being drunk while on duty and poor performance during discharge of official duties. “It is also very clear that drinking Alcohol and exercise of discipline and moderation while drinking is a matter of personal choice”. They further held that the military doctors and the organization make all the efforts to help a soldier who becomes a victim of ‘Alcohol Dependence Syndrome’ and only when all efforts fail the soldier is invalided out on the same ground. As far as attributability of the disability, it was neither attributable to nor aggravated by military service.

While calculating the disability percentage, the Tribunal relied on the Supreme Court’s Judgment in Sukhwinder Singh v. Union of India, (2014) STPL (WEB) 468 SC where they held that any disability not recorded at the time of recruitment must be presumed to have been caused to be a consequence of military service. The benefit of doubt must be in favour of the member of the Armed Forces. Wherever a member of the Armed Forces is invalided out of service, it perforce has to be assumed that their disability was found to be above twenty per cent.

Considering all issues, the Tribunal agreed with the opinion of IMB that the disease of the applicant was neither attributable to nor aggravated by military service and decided to not interfere with this process or provide any other relief to the applicant.[Kailash Joshi v. Union of India, 2019 SCC OnLine AFT 4366, decided on 16-08-2019]

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Armed Forces Tribunal: The Coram of Justice SVS Rathore (Judicial Member) and Air Marshal BBP Sinha (Administrative Member) allowed an application filed under Section 14 of the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007 for grant of disability pension.

Applicant herein, who joined the Indian Army in 2003, was admitted to the Military Hospital for psychiatric treatment in 2011. He was diagnosed with alcohol dependence syndrome (ADS), alcohol-induced psychosis, and deliberate self-harm; and was subsequently invalided out of service in 2013. Release Medical Board considered his disability as ‘neither attributable to nor aggravated by military service’ (NANA). Consequently, he was denied a disability pension. Hence, the present application.

Learned counsel for the appellant, Mr Vinay Pandey, submitted that the applicant was discharged in low medical category after putting in 09 years 11 months and 08 days of service. As such, he was entitled to get disability pension by condoning the shortfall of a few days for completion of 10 years of regular service. Whereas Mr VPS Vats, learned counsel for the respondent, contested this claim on the ground that the applicant’s disability was self-induced.

It was noted that the applicant had been invalided for a disability which was primarily induced by excessive alcohol consumption. The Tribunal recorded its displeasure at the rising incidence of ADS cases being invalided for pension in the Army. It observed that since ADS cases were invalided on medical grounds as NANA, legally there was no bar for an invalid pension.

In the present case, the applicant was short of 10 years’ of service by 22 days. In such a situation, where the livelihood of an individual was getting adversely affected, it was expected from a government organization to be magnanimous and considerate to its employee by delaying his discharge by 22 days.

In the interest of substantial justice, the impugned order was set aside and respondent was directed to treat applicant to be notionally in service till he completes 10 years of service, and grant him invalid pension for life.[ Jadhav Nilesh Dinkar v. Union of India, 2019 SCC OnLine AFT 1028, Order dated 26-03-2019]