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Armed forces grievances redressal panel set up
11-16-2010, 01:56 PM
Post: #1
Armed forces grievances redressal panel set up

Armed forces grievances redressal panel set up

R. Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, November 15

In a far-reaching order, the Supreme Court today directed the Centre to set up within two months an Armed Forces Grievances Redressal Commission with retired SC Judge Kuldip Singh as Chairman and former Allahabad High Court Chief Justice SS Sodhi as Vice-Chairman.

The members of the first Commission, which would have a two-year term, would be former Army Chief Gen VP Malik, Ex-Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi and a civil servant, serving or retired nominated by the government, a Bench comprising Justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra ruled.

"Since most of the members of the first Commission were based in Chandigarh, we direct that the headquarters of the Commission shall be at Chandigarh. For this purpose a suitable building will be allotted at the earliest at Chandigarh by the Union Territory of Chandigarh in consultation with the Central Government which will be used as the office-cum-secretariat of the mission.">/p>

The Commission would be different from the Armed Forces Tribunal, the Bench specifically clarified. The Commission would be only a recommendatory body and not an adjudicatory body. "Hence it is open to the Central Government to accept or not to accept its recommendations, though of course since such recommendations will be coming from a high-powered body the Central Government must give due weight to the same."

While the Armed Forces Tribunal could only decide cases in accordance with the rules, the Commission would be in a position to recommend even change of the rules where it "feels that the same are defective or inadequate. In other words, the Commission is not confined to following the relevant rules relating to service conditions, pension etc. But it can recommend change of the same where it feels that the same are defective or inadequate."

"We further direct all authorities in India, Civil or Military (including the Secretary, Defence, Union of India, and the Chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Staff) to extend all cooperation to the Commission to enable it to discharge its functions effectively."

The Commission would look into any grievances, sent to it in writing or by e-mail, by serving or former members of the armed forces (Army, Navy and Air Force) or their widows or family members and make suitable recommendations expeditiously to the Central Government in this connection.

Explaining the reasons for virtually setting up the Commission without giving the Centre the choice of choosing the Chairman, Vice-Chairman and members, the Bench said the armed forces personnel had a feeling that their grievances were not being properly addressed.

The personnel should have a feeling that their grievances are heard by an independent body. Even if some of their demands are not accepted, they would have a feeling that they were given a proper hearing."

The Commission would also frame and recommend to the Central Government a scheme for proper rehabilitation of discharged soldiers. If a soldier was discharged between the age of 35-45 how would he support his family? At that age he normally would have a wife and children. "Hence he should be given alternative employment so that he can support his family."

The Commission would go into this matter also "in detail and suggest appropriate schemes for rehabilitation of ex-armed forces personnel who are retired at a relatively young age."

The Bench passed the order on a petition by one Pushpa Vanti whose husband was an Army Major who had fought three wars (1948, 1962 and 1965) and was decorated with 14 medals.

"However, she is getting only Rs 80 per month as pension in these days when a kilogram of arhar dal costs that amount," the judges pointed out.

The claim of Pushpa Vanti stood referred to the Commission, the Bench said brushing aside Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium's contention that the government had since raised her pension and credited her dues to her bank account. The SG, however, did not specify the pension amount granted to her.

The apex court did not dispose of her petition with the order. It would come up for hearing on February 7 next year, the Bench said. Obviously, the court wants to ensure that the Commission was in place in compliance with its order.

During arguments, the Bench described as "contemptuous" the affidavit filed by the Centre through the SG. In the affidavit, the Centre had suggested that the "rank pay" issue raised in another petition filed by one Arun Kumar and other personnel seeking removal of anomalies in the implementation of the 4th Pay Commission would be looked into by the proposed redressal Commission.

The Bench said the Commission could not go into the rank pay issue as the apex court had already given its verdict earlier this year. The petition by the personnel, represented by senior counsel Mahabir Singh, would be referred to another Bench.

The Commission's headquarter at Chandigarh must have sufficient rooms to provide an office for each member. The Central Government would allot adequate secretarial and other staff and infrastructure and equipment, including computers and telephones, for the office and members of the Commission "as desired by the Chairman."

In addition to the headquarters, the Commission would have its offices at Delhi and "such other places as the Chairman of the Commission may direct." The Central Government and concerned state governments/Union Territories would provide the necessary staff and infrastructure as the "Chairman may direct for this purpose."

The subsequent commission members could be appointed by the government, at the end of the term of the first commission, the Bench said.

All the members of the Commission "shall sit together whenever issues of general importance are to be considered. However, in any matter relating to individuals or a few persons only the Chairman can appoint a smaller Committee consisting of one or more members as he decides."

The first four members of the Commission would be given the same salaries, benefits and allowances they were getting on the last day when they were in service. They would also be given travel and such other allowances decided by the Chairman if they have to travel to other places away from Chandigarh. The fifth member, if a retired person, will also get the same."

When senior counsel Mahabir Singh, appearing for the aggrieved personnel, pointed out that the government wanted the Commission to go into only the anomalies in the Fourth Pay Commission, the Bench said the SC was not bound by the views of the government. It was only for the sake of courtesy, the apex court had sought the views of the Centre on various issues under consideration time and again, the Bench said.

Quoting Magadha Prime Minister Chanakya's advice to Emperor Chandragupta Maurya, the court said the day soldier "has to demand his dues will be a sad day for Magadha; for then, on that day, you will have lost all moral sanction to be King!"

In the order, the Bench pointed out that ex-soldiers were not only demanding but were agitating to get their legitimate dues. "They were compelled to resort to public protests and even return their war medals and burn their artificial limbs."

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11-16-2010, 01:57 PM
Post: #2
RE: Armed forces grievances redressal panel set up

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