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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 (AFT): Justice S.V.S. Rathore and Air Marshal BBP Sinha (Member) partly allowed an application to consider applicant’s disability as aggravated by military service. The applicant filed a petition for grant of disability pension with a delay of 09 years, 09 months and 09 days. He was commissioned fully fit as an officer in the Indian Army in 1972 and was discharged from service in low medical category in 1997. The Release Medical Board (RMB) assessed his disabilities (i) I.H.D. ICDN 411 (CAD) at 11-14% for two years and (ii) Ankylosing Spondylitis at 11-14% for two years, composite assessment at 20% for two years as neither attributable to nor aggravated (NANA) by military service. Therefore, his disability pension claim was rejected. The respondents contended that the applicant approached the Tribunal after a gap of 20 years and such inordinate delay cannot be condoned. The Tribunal rejected this contention of the respondents primarily because the pension is a recurring cause of action. They further contended that disabilities of the applicant have been regarded as NANA by the RMB, hence the applicant is not entitled to disability pension. They further submitted that an incumbent is granted disability pension when invalidated out of service on account of a disability which is attributable to or aggravated by military service and is assessed at 20% or over. On the other hand, the applicant argued that he had picked up these diseases due to stress and strain of service. 

The Tribunal went on answering as to whether the disabilities of the applicant are attributable to or aggravated by military service? The Tribunal relied on Dharamvir Singh v. Union of India, (2013) 7 SCC 316 to address the law on attributability/aggravation of a disability where the Supreme Court took note of the provisions of the Pensions Regulations, Entitlement Rules and the General Rules of Guidance to Medical Officers to sum up the current legal position. ‘Ankylosing Spondylitis’ is an inflammatory disease which, over time, can cause some of the vertebrae in the spine to fuse resulting in a hunched-forward posture. This disease has no known specific cause, though genetic factors seem to be involved. Since the cause of the disease is not clearly known and there is no mention of genetic loading in RMB, therefore, the Tribunal gave the benefit of doubt in favour of the applicant.

The Tribunal held that the RMB had denied attributability/aggravation to the applicant only by endorsing a cryptic sentence that his disability is not connected with military service and that the disabilities of the applicant should be considered as aggravated by military service. The applicant was held entitled to 20% disability element (composite) for both the disabilities for two years after discharge which would round off to 50%. However, the Supreme Court in the case of Shiv Dass v. Union of India, (2007) 9 SCC 274 held that arrears of disability pension are to be restricted to three years prior to the filing of the application if the same has been filed belatedly and the delay is condoned. Since the applicant approached the Tribunal after a gap of more than 09 years, he was not entitled to any arrears due to the law of limitations.[DS Jasrotia v. Union of India, 2019 SCC OnLine AFT 3883, decided on 15-07-2019]

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Armed Force Tribunal: A Division Bench of Justice Sunita Gupta (Member) and Lt. Gen. Philip Campose (Member) allowed an application under Section 14 of the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007 to claim disability pension. The applicant was commissioned in the Indian Air Force in Logistics Branch in a sound mental condition. In the course of his service, he was diagnosed with Primary Hypertension and was superannuated with his disability which was assessed at thirty percent for life. This claim was rejected by the respondents on the ground that the disability was ‘Neither Attributable to, Nor Aggravated by Military Service’ as per the Medical Board examination, which is an expert body. The applicant relied on the Supreme Court’s judgment in Dharamvir Singh v. Union of India, (2013) 7 SCC 316 which held that the question of whether a disability is attributable or aggravated by military service is to be determined under Entitlement Rules for Casualty Pensionary Awards, 1982. Under these rules, if a member is subsequently discharged from their service on medical grounds, any deterioration on their health is presumed due to service. The logic is that if no disability or disease was detected at the time of the individual’s acceptance, it is deemed to have arisen in the service.

In the present case, the Tribunal addressed other recommendations made by the Committee of experts constituted by the Ministry of Defence. The expert committee has recommended that whenever a legal principle is settled by a High Court or Supreme Court, the same must be universally applied to all primarily placed employees for efficient redressal of grievances related to service and pension matters. The Tribunal Finally held that the disability accrued by the applicant was during the course of Military Service and he is thus entitled to disability element of pension at thirty percent for life which is liable to be broadband to 50 percent too.[S Sriram v. Union of India, 2019 SCC OnLine AFT 3490, decided on 05-07-2019]

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Armed Force Tribunal: Coram of Justice S.V.S. Rathore (Judicial Member) and Air Marshal BBP Sinha (Administrative Member) dismissed an application filed by the wife of an army officer seeking a grant of Special Family Pension, holding that the same was devoid of merits.

The facts were that the applicant’s husband was on annual leave. He got injured while he was traveling to his father-in-law’s house by a vehicle which met with an accident due to negligent driving. He was taken to hospital for treatment but he died on the way to the hospital. After the death of her husband, the applicant prayed for gratuity and Special Family Pension, but she was denied the same and granted ordinary family pension, on the ground that death of her husband had no casual connection with Army duty. It was claimed by the applicant that the Entitlement Rules for Casualty Pensionary Awards, 1982 stipulates that death disability in such cases must be deemed to be attributable to military service and as such Special Family Pension ought to have been granted by the respondents. By means of this Original Application, she prayed for the setting of the order denying Special Family Pension and requested for issuance of an order to the respondents to pay Special Family Pension from the date of death of her husband with arrears.

In the Original Application, reference was made of a case of Gurmit Singh Butter v. Union of India, 2000 (5) SLR, wherein it had been held that “casual leave, annual leave, furlough or medical leave, the relationship of employees and employer does not cease and the same shall continue”.

In the counter affidavit, it is stated that FIR to this accident was lodged and the Station Commander recommended that “the death of the deceased may be regarded to Military Service in peace”. But, the Officiating Commander in his order directed that “the death of deceased is not attributable to Military Service” and so the Special Family Pension claim of the applicant was rejected.

The Tribunal opined that under Section 16 of the Pension Regulatory, there are certain necessary conditions for grant of Special Family Pension. Keeping in view this regulation, it was clear that there must be a causal connection between the cause of injury and army duty. The Court relied on the judgment passed by this Bench in Shreepal v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine AFT 8045 in which it was held that Army personnel will be deemed to be on duty when he is on any type of authorized leave during traveling to or from home from the place of posting.

It was held that in the instant case there was any causal connection with the Army duty and the accident. Thus, his accident could not be treated as being attributable to military service. Hence, it was held that there was no illegality or irregularity in the impugned order.[Sanju Singh v. Union of India, 2019 SCC OnLine AFT 1433, decided on 10-05-2019]

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Armed Forces Tribunal: A Coram of Justice SVS Rathore (Judicial Member) and Air Marshal BBP Sinha (Administrative Member) allowed an ex-hawaldar’s application for disability pension holding that stress and strain of military service can also happen in peace areas.

Applicant herein was enrolled in the Indian Army in 1971 and after serving the Army for 22 years, he was discharged from service in 1973. Thereafter, the applicant was inducted in the Defence Security Corps (DSC) as Sepoy in medically fit condition and after serving for 15 years in the DSC, he was discharged therefrom in 2010. Before applicant’s discharge, the Release Medical Board (RMB) considered his disability as ‘primary hypertension’ and opined the disease as “neither attributable nor aggravated” (NANA) by military service and assessed it as 30% for life. The Medical Board further assessed the disability qualifying for a disability pension as NIL for life. Aggrieved with non-payment of disability pension, the applicant preferred representation which was rejected by the appropriate authority. Hence, the present petition.

The Tribunal noted that the only reason given by the RMB for declaring the disease as NANA was that it had not started in peace area and not in a field, high altitude area or counter-insurgency operation area. This reason was outrightly dismissed by the Tribunal opining that it amounted to saying that there is no stress and strain of military service in peace areas. Therefore, in terms of the judgment of Dharamvir Singh v. Union of India, (2013) 7 SCC 316 it was held that the applicant’s disability of ‘primary hypertension’ be considered as aggravated by military service.

The impugned order was set aside and the applicant was held to be entitled to benefit of rounding-off of disability pension. Relying on Shiv Dass v. Union of India, (2007) 9 SCC 274 he was directed to be granted disability pension at 30 percent for life which would be rounded off to 50 percent from three years prior to the filing of this application.[Ex Havildar Anand Singh v. Union of India, 2019 SCC OnLine AFT 1408, decided on 26-03-2019]

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Armed Forces Tribunal: The Coram of Justice SVS Rathore (Judicial Member) and Air Marshal BBP Sinha (Administrative Member) set aside the order of Principal Controller of Defence Accounts, Allahabad (PCDA-P) rejecting disability pension to an ex-sepoy.

Applicant herein, who joined the Indian Army as a sepoy in 1999, was admitted to Medical Hospital during his service period. The Invalidating Medical Board (IMB) categorized his disease as ‘Generalised Seizures –V-72 (Permanent)’ and assessed it as 20 percent for two years; holding it to be ‘neither attributable to nor aggravated by military service’ (NANA). The applicant was discharged from service in 2002, but his case for disability pension was rejected by the PCDA (P) in 2003. Hence, the instant application.

Learned counsel for the applicant, Mr Vinay Kumar Pandey, submitted that since the applicant was enrolled in medically fit condition and was thereafter discharged in ‘low medical category’, therefore his disability should be considered as attributable to and aggravated by military service and he should be granted disability pension. Further, IMB had not cited any reason for nonconnection of applicant’s disability with service in the Army.

Dr Shailendra Sharma Atal, learned counsel for the respondent submitted that as per Para 173 of the Pension Regulations (Part-I) 1961, the applicant was not entitled to any disability pension since the same is admissible only to an individual who is invalided out from service on account of disability attributable to military service.

The Tribunal noted that the applicant was enrolled in Army in a medically fit condition and discharged after 03 years and 233 days of service in low medical category. Respondent had not produced any document to prove that the disability/disease existed at the time of enrolment. The disease has started after more than two years of service, and the reason for declaring the disease as NANA was very cryptic i.e. ‘not connected with military service’. The said statement did not convey clearly as to why the disease had been declared as NANA.

Relying on the judgment of Dharamvir Singh v. Union of India, (2013) 7 SCC 316 it was held that benefit of doubt must be in favour of the applicant and his disease be considered as attributable to military service.

Since IMB had assessed applicant’s disability as 20 percent for two years, therefore, in view the judgment of Veer Pal Singh v. Ministry of Defence, (2013) 8 SCC 83, applicant’s case was recommended for the reassessment of further element of disability pension by Re-survey Medical Board, if any. The application was partly allowed holding the applicant entitled to disability pension at 20 percent for two years from the date of his discharge.[Satyendra Kumar Singh v. Union of India, 2019 SCC OnLine AFT 1029, Order dated 27-03-2019]

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Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT): The Bench of S.V.S. Rathore, J. and Air Marshal BBP Sinha; Members, dismissed an application claiming disability pension, on the grounds that the disease was neither attributable to nor aggravated by the military service.

In the present case, the original applicant (deceased) developed pain and swelling in his right thigh following an injury while doing the parade. The Categorisation Medical Board was held on 14-08-1964 at Military Hospital, Lucknow for the disability “Leomyo Sarcoma Right Thigh” and the applicant was placed in category CEE (temporary) for 6 months. On account of the said disability, grant of disability pension was sought for. The respondents filed a counter affidavit stating that the documents relating to the case were destroyed after the expiry of the period of retention i.e. 25 years and in the absence of a medical report, it is not possible to give any specific finding.

The Court opined that it was not in the position to accept that the disease of the applicant was either attributable to or aggravated by military service, primarily since, there was a substantial delay of 44 years and also because the reason as to why the disease could not be detected at the time of enrolment cannot be scrutinised to decide attributability.[Faquir Baksh Singh v. Union of India, Original Application No. 543 of 2017, Order dated 18-02-2019]

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Armed Forces Tribunal, Regional Bench, Lucknow: Hon’ble Justice DP Singh and Hon’ble Air Marshal BBP Sinha, pronounced an order in respect to an application being filed in regard to refusal to grant disability pension under Section 14 of the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007.

The applicant was commissioned in the Indian Army in Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering (EME). He was posted at Jabalpur when the annual medical examination took place in which he was subjected to Medical Board proceedings and was put under the category of “primary hypertension i-10”, when further the re-categorisation was held applicant was placed in Medical category P2 (Permanent). Release Medial Board opined that the disability was neither attributable nor aggravated by military service and assessed the disability to be 30% for life.

The question of attributability of disability was considered to be no longer “res integra”, by citing the case of Dharmvir Singh v. Union of  India, (2013) 7 SCC 316, and further the proposition of law stated in the cited case declared that the applicant’s disability is considered as “attributable to military service”.

Next, the question of rounding off of disability pension was settled by citing the case of Union of India v. Ram Avtar (CA No. 418 of 2012 ), which explained the ratio and helped in concluding the judgment by entitling the applicant to the benefit of “rounding off” of his disability element of pension from 30% to 50%.

The Tribunal concluded its order by stating that the applicant was enrolled in the Indian Army in a medically fit condition and was discharged from service in low medical category. Since the applicant entered in Military service in a medically fit condition, disability will be considered as attributable to military service. Therefore, respondents are directed to grant disability pension to the applicant @ 30% for life which shall be rounded off to 50% for life from three years prior to filing of the original application. [Bimal Kishore Charan v. Union of India, OA No. 277 of 2016, decided on 04-1-2018]