New Delhi, December 17
The Supreme Court on Friday ordered a disability pension for a Territorial Army soldier with an 80% disability.
A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai declared, pursuant to the Army Pensions Regulations, 1961, that a person disabled from service by reason of a disability, which is attributable to or aggravated by military service in non-combat injury and is assessed at 20 percent or more, would be entitled to a disability pension.
The Supreme Court said that the Ecological Task Force (ETF), of which the claimant was a member, is established as an additional company for the 130th Infantry Battalion of the Territorial Army.
“It is undisputed that other officers or enlisted persons working in the Territorial Army are entitled to a disability pension under Regulation No. 173 read with Regulation No. 292 of the Pension Regulations of the army, 1961.
“While the appellant is enlisted as a member of the ETF, which is a company of the 130th Infantry Battalion (Territorial Army), we see no reason why the appellant was denied disability pension. Specifically, when the Medical Board and Court of Inquiry found that the Appellant’s injury was attributable to military service and not his own negligence,” the bench said.
Rejecting the Center’s claim that petitioner Pani Ram had signed a document agreeing to the condition that he would not receive any enhanced pension, the Supreme Court declared that members of the Territorial Army would be entitled to a disability pension.
“As this court has held, a right to equality guaranteed by Section 14 of the Constitution of India would apply equally to a man who has no other choice, or rather no choice significant, but to give assent to a contract or to sign on the dotted line in a prescribed or standard form or to agree to any set of rules under the contract, as unjust, unreasonable and unreasonable as any term of this contract, of this form or of these rules may be.
“We believe that the said observations properly apply to the facts of this case. Can it be said that the powerful Union of India and an ordinary soldier who fought for the country and retired from the regular army, seeking re-employment in the territorial army, have bargaining power equal? We are therefore of the view that reliance on said document would also be of no assistance to the case of the respondents,” the bench said.
The High Court ordered the Center to grant a disability pension to the Claimant in accordance with the rules and regulations applicable to members of the Territorial Army as of January 1, 2012.
He also ordered him to clear the arrears within three months from the date of the judgment with interest at the rate of nine per cent per annum.
The petitioner Pani Ram was serving as a sepoy in the Territorial Army. On April 24, 2009, he had a serious accident and his right leg was amputated above the knee.
The claimant was discharged with 80% disability on 1 January 2012. A court of inquiry concluded that the injury he suffered was attributable to military service and not to his own negligence. —PTI