Saturday, 30 May 2015

OROP: A summing up as per an IPS retd Lawyer



Dr. Ashok Dhamija
Dr. Ashok Dhamija is a New Delhi based Supreme Court Advocate, author of law books and an ex-IPS officer having also worked in CBI. Read more by clicking here. Email: ashok@dhamija.com Twitter: https://twitter.com/ashokdhamija

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About 25 lakh retired military personnel have been demanding “One Rank, One Pension” (OROP) for a long period. It has not been implemented by the Central Government so far, even though the Government has already accepted it in principle and there are judgments of the Supreme Court laying down that discrimination in the matter of grant of pension on the basis of the date of retirement is not permissible as it is violative of the fundamental right to equality guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution. In fact, recently, I have also won a case against discrimination in the grant of pension to similarly situated retired IPS officers who retired prior to 2006 vis-a-vis those who retired on or after 01.01.2006, which means that this principle would be applicable to civil services also; but, more on this slightly later. Let me first explain what “One Rank, One Pension” is, why it is the mandate of law, and also why it must be implemented by the Government forthwith.

“One Rank, One Pension” rule basically implies that retired soldiers of the same rank with the same length of service will be entitled to get the same amount of pension, irrespective of the date or year of their retirement. Simply put, it means if someone has retired from the Army from a particular rank having rendered a particular number of years’ service, then he will get the same pension that is paid to another person who subsequently retires from the same rank with the same number of years’ service. For example, if a sepoy (i.e., jawan or sipahi) retired in 1990 after rendering service for 15 years, he must get the same pension as is given to a sepoy retiring in 2014 after rendering the same service for 15 years.

In fact, it is really surprising and shocking as to how different retired persons, who retired from the same position or rank after having rendered the same number of years’ service but retiring at different times, are paid different and unequal pension amounts. Why this inequality, in spite of the right to equality guaranteed under the Constitution?

Such inequality in pension has been the result of the recommendations of various pay commissions which gave higher increase in salaries to the serving personnel (who will then get higher pension after their retirement), while the pension of the existing retired pensioners was not increased appropriately in the same ratio. Thus, over a period of time, there is a vast difference between the pensions of retired personnel retiring at different times even though they might have retired from the same position and with the same number of years’ service.

For example, the media reports suggest that a sepoy who retired before 1996 gets 82% less pension than a sepoy who retired after 01.01.2006, and a major who retired before 1996 gets 53% less pension than a major who retired after 01.01.2006. This is ridiculous and a clear violation of the right to equality guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution.

It is pertinent to point out that in the case of Deokinandan Prasad v. State of Bihar, (1971) 2 SCC 330 (at page 344), a Constitution bench of the Supreme Court has held that “pension is not a bounty payable on the sweet will and pleasure of the Government and that, on the other hand, the right to pension is a valuable right vesting in a government servant”.

Likewise, in the case of D.S. Nakara v. Union of India, (1983) 1 SCC 305 (at page 323) : AIR 1983 SC 130, it was held by another Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court that the antiquated notion of pension being a bounty, a gratuitous payment depending upon the sweet will or grace of the employer not claimable as a right and, therefore, no right to pension can be enforced through Court has been swept under the carpet by the decision of the Constitution Bench in the aforesaid Deokinandan Prasad case wherein it was authoritatively ruled that pension is a right and the payment of it does not depend upon the discretion of the Government but is governed by the rules and a government servant coming within those rules is entitled to claim pension.

It was further held in the above case of D.S. Nakara that the pension payable to a government employee is earned by rendering long and efficient service and therefore can be said to be a deferred portion of the compensation or for service rendered.

In the above case of D.S. Nakara, it has also been held by the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court that all pensioners have equal right to receive the benefits of a liberalised pension scheme. It was also held that the pensioners form a class as a whole and cannot be micro-classified by an arbitrary, unprincipled and unreasonable eligibility criterion for the purpose of grant of revised pension. Moreover, the criterion of enforcement of the revised pension scheme entitling benefits of the revision to those retiring after a specific date while depriving the benefits to those retiring prior to that date was held to be violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.

The directions issued by the Supreme Court in the recent case of Union of India v. SPS Vains, (2008) 9 SCC 125, are also quite relevant in this regard. In this case, the issue was “…whether there could be a disparity in payment of pension to officers of the same rank, who had retired prior to the introduction of the revised pay scales, with those who retired thereafter”. The dispute arose due to disparity in determination of pension of pre 01.01.1996 and post 01.01.1996 retirees who retired from defence services as Major General or equivalent posts. The pension of the pre 01.01.1996 retiree Major Generals was fixed lower than the post 01.01.1996 retiree Major Generals due to revision in pay scales.

The Supreme Court held as under:

“The object sought to be achieved was not to create a class within a class, but to ensure that the benefits of pension were made available to all persons of the same class equally. To hold otherwise would cause violence to the provisions of Article 14 of the Constitution.”
In the above SPS Vains case, the Supreme Court directed that the pay of all pensioners (who retired prior to 01.01.1996) in the rank of Major General be notionally fixed at the rate given to similar officers of the same rank (who retired after 01.01.1996) after revision of pay scales with effect from 01.01.2006, and, thereafter, to compute their pensionary benefits on such basis with prospective effect from the date of filing of the writ petition and to pay them the difference within three months from date with interest at 10% p.a.

Thus, the decision of Supreme Court in the aforesaid case of SPS Vainsclearly lays down that there cannot be a disparity in payment of pension to officers of the same rank, who had retired prior to the introduction of the revised pay scales, with those who retired thereafter.

It is pertinent to mention that recently, on 16 February 2015, when the contempt matter relating to SPS Vains case (along with a Civil Appeal with the title of “Union of India through Defence Secretary & Others vs. SPS Vains & Ors.”) was listed before a 2-judge bench of the Supreme Court, comprising of Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, the Supreme Court passed the following order:

“Ms. Pinky Anand, learned Additional Solicitor General, prays for and is granted three months’ time finally to work out the modalities for implementation of the one rank-one pension principle on which the Tribunal has passed the impugned judgment. The principle is also, it appears, covered by the decision of this Court in Union of India & Anr. v. SPS Vains (Retd.) & Ors. – (2008) 9 SCC 125. Post after three months finally. We make it clear that no further time will be granted for the purpose of implementation of the impugned judgment.”

Thus, the Supreme Court has granted a period of 3 months (as on 16th February 2015), as a final chance, to implement the one rank one pension scheme. As per Hindustan Times, the above bench of the Supreme Court also warned the Government of contempt if it failed to abide by its order within three months, and further, Justice Thakur is reported to have told the ASG representing the Government that this (i.e., one rank one pension) was part of the BJP manifesto for the Lok Sabha elections and it must keep its word.

The Supreme Court website shows that the above Contempt Petition in the SPS Vains case will now be listed on 1st July 2015, i.e., immediately after the summer vacation in the Supreme Court. Though the above 3 months’ period expired on 15th May 2015, due to summer vacation in the Supreme Court, the Government can enjoy a further grace period of 6 weeks during the summer vacation. It is hoped that by that time the Government will comply with the direction of implementing the one rank one pension scheme.

What about the pensioners from the Civil Services?

As mentioned in the beginning of this article, I may point out that I have won in a recent case [Forum of Retired IPS Officers (FORIPSO) vs. Union of India] which has been decided on 15 January 2015 by the Principal Bench of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) at New Delhi on a principle similar to the principle of one rank one pension rule. In this case, the issue was the discrimination in the matter of pension given to the retired IPS officers of Director General (DG) rank who had retired prior to 2006 vis-à-vis retired officers of the same rank who retired on or after 01.01.2006. Relying upon the decisions in the aforesaid D.S. Nakara and SPS Vains cases [and also on the decision of CAT in the case of  All India S-30 Pensioners’ Association v. Union of India decided on 20.11.2014], the CAT has directed the Government of India to consider the revised pay of the applicants (i.e., pre-2006 retired IPS officers DG rank) corresponding to the pay at which the concerned pensioners had in fact retired instead of considering the minimum of the said pay scales thereby determining pension/family pension to pre-2006 retirees. This direction ensures that the increments earned by a pre-2006 retired officer will be fixed at the appropriate stage of the new pay scale after 2006 revision, taking into account the increments earned by such pre-2006 retiree in the old pay scale, and then computing his revised pension accordingly. This direction will thus ensure that a pre-2006 officer will get the same pension as that paid to a post-2006 retiree who retired from the same stage of the pay scale. This is more or less the same as the one rank one pension rule.

In fact, in the aforesaid decision in the case of All India S-30 Pensioners’ Association v. Union of India, the CAT had also ruled that [and this decision is also applicable in the case of Forum of Retired IPS Officers (FORIPSO) vs. Union of India that I had argued] the ratio laid down in the judgment of the  Supreme Court in SPS Vains case that there can be no disparity in payment of pension to officers of the same rank, who had retired prior to the introduction of the revised pay scales, with those who retired thereafter, will hold good in the case of civilian officers also. Accordingly, the CAT had held that the OM dated 18.11.2009 of the Government of India (which said that the ruling of SPS Vains case was not applicable to the civil pensioners) was illegal, being contrary to the law laid down by the Supreme Court in SPS Vains and D.S. Nakara cases and the same was, therefore, quashed and set aside.

Therefore, it is clear that the rule of one rank one pension would generally be applicable to civil pensioners also. This is for the simple reason that any contrary rule would violate the fundamental right to equality guaranteed to the pensioners (whether pensioners from the defence services or the civil services) under Article 14 of the Constitution, i.e., the right to receive the same pension when they retire from the same position with the same length of service, irrespective of the date of retirement. This is what is the essence of “One Rank, One Pension.”

Why should a person who retired in 1970 or 1990 receive less pension than a person retiring in say 2015, when both of them have retired from the same position and with the same length of service? After all, when they go the market and purchase vegetables or grocery items or clothes for themselves or for their families, they have to pay the same amount of money. In fact, a person who retired 20 years back may have to spend more money on health (due to more advanced age) than a person who retired later.

Therefore, the right to equality requires that the Government must forthwith implement the principle of one rank one pension to give justice to tens of lakhs of pensioners from the defence services as well as from the civil services.
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The Longest Running Reality Show - OROP -

No doubt about it': Government committed to OROP scheme, says PM Modi

There is no doubt about the govt's commitment to the OROP scheme, said PM Modi.

  (http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/nation/govt-committed-to-orop-there-s-no-doubt-about-it-pm/87192.html)

  On OROP, the PM said the government was "in constant discussions with the armed forces personnel to arrive at a please-all definition of OROP of which there are varied versions."  "No one should have any doubts about OROP's implementation. I want everyone to know that through The Tribune. But there are varied versions about what the definition of OROP should be. Would it be proper for me to take a decision without keeping the armed forces personnel in the loop? So we are trying to arrive at a please-all decision," the PM said.......

 But there is just one definition that the Rajya Sabha Committee recommended and the UPA Govt agreed to in Feb 2014 and BJP/NDA Govt in Jun 2014 and thereafter.   

The definition is Same Years of Service, Same Rank, Same Pension w.e.f 1/1/2014 and thereafter every time there is an increase.

Also there was a BJP/NDA Govt in power from 1998 to 2004, when n decision on OROP was taken.

 .....Asked if the Government would expedite OROP, the PM said the Government was committed to it. "The government has been formed for five years."

And we have a date  that all of us are requesting - 25 May 2019 or before the Election Commission announces the dates of the General Election 2019?

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On Friday, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had said even though all formalities of the scheme had been completed, no specific time-frame could be announced for its implementation as a couple of administrative steps were still pending. 
- See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/government-committed-to-one-rank-one-pension-tweets-pm-modi/#sthash.O8CZw8ue.dpuf

The administrative steps are (as revealed in the massive amount of disclosures in reply to RTI requests in the Rank Pay case of UoI Vs Lt Col N K Nair & others) as follows: -

1. MoD examines the case and with CGDA and FA(DS) providing the calculations and budgetary allocations required, prepares a substantive case for the approval of Raksha Mantri.

Is OROP file pending here at this stage?

2. The Raksha Mantri examines the proposals on the file, including the methodology, the financial impact, a Draft Govt Letter (DGL), and the budgetary requirements including the source of funding. If he has doubts he calls the MoD officials or FA (DS) or even the CGDA and obtains clarifications.

Is OROP file pending here at this stage?

3. Once the Raksha Mantri is satisfied, he approves the file and the file is sent to the Deptt of Expenditure (DoE), Ministry of Finance (MoF) for processing for the approval of Finance Minister.
  
Is OROP file pending here at this stage?

4. If DoE, MoF has any doubts those are put on file with the approval of the Jt Secy (Personnel) and the file is returned to the MoD.

Is OROP file pending here at this stage?

5. If the file is returned to MoD, clarifications are provided and the file is returned to DoE, MoF. 

 Is OROP file pending here at this stage?

6. If the DoE, MoF is satisfied with the clarifications, the file is processed through the Jt Secy (Pers), Expenditure Secretary for the approval of Finance Minister.

Is OROP file pending here at this stage?

7. If the Finance Minister has doubts/needs clarifications that cannot be provided by the DoE, MoF, the file is returned to MoD and step 5 is repeated.

 Is OROP file pending here at this stage?

8. If the Finance Minister is satisfied, he approves the OROP payment and the file is returned to MoD for further action.

 Is OROP file pending here at this stage?

9. Once the approved file is received in MoD, the DGL is converted into a Govt letter for implementation and copies are sent out as per the Standard Distribution List and OROP commences.

Is OROP file pending here at this stage?

10. Since the UPA Govt did not need the file to be put up to Prime Minister, it was approved at the level of the Finance Minister. But if the PM of BJP/NDA Govt want to approve OROP personally, the file has to put up to him through the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).

Is OROP file pending here at this stage?

 

Only Mr Parikkar knows! Or does he?

 

 

 

 

 


 

On Friday, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had said even though all formalities of the scheme had been completed, no specific time-frame could be announced for its implementation as a couple of administrative steps were still pending. - See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/government-committed-to-one-rank-one-pension-tweets-pm-modi/#sthash.O8CZw8ue.dpuf
On Friday, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had said even though all formalities of the scheme had been completed, no specific time-frame could be announced for its implementation as a couple of administrative steps were still pending. - See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/government-committed-to-one-rank-one-pension-tweets-pm-modi/#sthash.O8CZw8ue.dpuf
On Friday, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had said even though all formalities of the scheme had been completed, no specific time-frame could be announced for its implementation as a couple of administrative steps were still pending. - See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/government-committed-to-one-rank-one-pension-tweets-pm-modi/#sthash.O8CZw8ue.dpuf
On Friday, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had said even though all formalities of the scheme had been completed, no specific time-frame could be announced for its implementation as a couple of administrative steps were still pending. - See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/government-committed-to-one-rank-one-pension-tweets-pm-modi/#sthash.O8CZw8ue.dpuf

Thursday, 28 May 2015

The Reality Show - Next episode

DD News
http://newsonair.nic.in/full_news.asp?type=bulletins&id=112

0815 HRS
28th May, 2015
THE HEADLINES:-
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi directs concerned authorities to pay immediate attention to the pension and retirement related issues of ex-servicemen...................
 <><><> 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday chaired his third interaction through the ICT-based, multi-modal platform for Pro-Active Governance and Timely Implementation (PRAGATI). Reviewing the implementation of key issues pertaining to ex-servicemen, he expressed concern at the perceived atmosphere of indifference on issues pertaining to ex-servicemen such as delay in pension and retirement benefits. The Prime Minister directed the concerned authorities to pay more attention to the problems at the earliest.

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Just a few budgetary facts about our Raksha Mantralaya: OROP & 7th CPC

1. The MoD website's Budget & Accounts has been updated last on 21.3.2014 (please do not rub your eyes - before the BJP Govt was sworn in).

2. An amount of Rs 2,29,000 crores was allotted in Budget 2014-15 and it was reduced to Rs 2, 23,370 crores in the Revised Estimates. Further the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence observed that MoD utilised only 87.21% of the allotted budget (Shri Arun Jaitely was Raksha Mantri), which is reported to be the lowest utilisation in the last six years! It is a moot point whether the reduction in the Defence budget was for Ministry of Finance (yes, headed by Shri Arun Jaitley) was balancing its books and showing a rosy picture! That probably explains why even the Rs 1500 crores allocated to payment of OROP was axed in the Revised Estimates!!

3. This year (FY 2015-16), Defence Budget is Rs 2,46,727 crores with another Rs 54,500 crores towards pensions and Rs 8852.6 crores towards Civil Expenditure of MoD (?).

4. In the opinion of Shri Ashish Cowshish, former FADS, in a column  titled India’s Defence Budget 2015-16  A Quiet Saunter along the Familiar Road (http://www.indiastrategic.intopstories3701_Indias_Defence_Budget.htm), the budget allocation will make it "nearly impossible" to meet the implementation of OROP and the recommendations of the 7th CPC! 

5. Could that be the reason for all this ominous silence of the powers-that-be about implementation of OROP, with the exception of the Raksha Mantri and his periodic statements justifying the "longest running reality show" as someone called it ?   

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Have the Bure Din started for ESM, the widows & NoK of ESM?


In Mathura, in the ongoing celebrations of 365 days of Good Governance, No Scams and Speedy Decisions, the PM, has emphasised that "acchhe logon ke acchhe din aagaye aur bure logon ke bure din shure hue."

Are Ex-Servicemen, the widows and Next of kin of Ex-Servicemen "bure log"? Why  should ESM, the widows and NoK be tortured by contradictory statements on OROP by the Finance Minister and the Defence Minister and deafening silence from the PM. Where is the transparency and speedy decision?

Isn't it a scam, depriving the ESM of OROP of a few thousand rupees, just like the UPA Govt is alleged to have deprived the State of thousands and lakhs of crores of rupees.

 Ex-Servicemen guarded the sovereignty of India's borders at the cost of lives, limbs & minds (stress induced disorders) for the 68 years on the next Independence Day. Our Honourable Prime Minister will be only 65 years on his next birthday (17 September 1950).

Prime Ministerial candidate and later Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi promised OROP from many places,  as extracts from the print press below indicate.


Cong playing fraud with armed forces: Modi on 'One Rank One Pension'
Feb 23, 2014 16:20 IST

Source: www.firstpost.com › Politics News
 
Ludhiana: Slamming the "delay" by UPA in granting 'one-rank, one-pension' for ex-servicemen, Narendra Modi today accused Congress of playing "fraud" with the armed forces and mocked Rahul Gandhi's pitch on fighting corruption.
Addressing a 'fateh' (victory) rally with leaders from the ally Shiromani Akali Dal on the dais, the Gujarat Chief Minister, who donned a saffron turban, also dismissed as "rumours and a pack of lies" the controversy about migration of Sikh farmers from Kutch region in his state, promising that no Sikh farmer will have to leave Gujarat.
He described the BJP-SAD alliance in Punjab as a symbol of Hindu-Sikh unity which has put to end the "Congress' game of divide and rule".
...................................
He hit out Congress on one-rank, one-pension issue. After Rahul Gandhi's push, the government accepted the long-standing demand of ex-servicemen for 'one-rank, one-pension' and allocated Rs 500 crore for the fund a few days back. This decision is expected to benefit around 30 lakh retired personnel of the Armed forces. Modi wondered why the government did not bring this proposal in previous budgets even as it was in power for last ten years.

"The government, which is sitting in Delhi has always been playing a farce with the Armed Forces. Before this also, a number of times, the Finance Minister of Congress had made announcements about One Rank One Pension (OROP) but never fulfilled it.

"Even this time since I am repeatedly talking about it, they have announced it but this is a "fraud" (dhokha) with you. Had Congress party been honest, they had the chance to it in 10 budgets from 2004 to 2014. But they did not do it," Modi said.

Maintaining that had the NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee come to power in 2004, this would have been done, the BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate, "only our government will be able to implement it."
PTI

Modi promises 'One rank, One Pension', Stresses on National Security During INS Vikramaditya Launch
June 14, 2014 15:00 IST
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who launched INS Vikramaditya on Saturday, dedicated the warship to the nation, and made promises about 'one rank, one pension' to army personnel.

"My government is committed to One-rank, One-pension. There have been many promises, but no action was taken," Modi said on board the country's largest warship according to PTI.

Modi had earlier slammed the UPA government for its delay in implementing the 'one-rank-one pension' policy. In February this year, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had pushed for the scheme, which the government accepted and allocated 500 crore for the fund that is expected to benefit 30 lakh retired personnel of the Armed forces, according to Firstpost.

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Source: www.ibtimes.co.in › Society › Politics



News » National

SRINAGAR,
Updated: October 23, 2014 19:57 IST

Modi visits Siachen to meet soldiers on Diwali

Says the issue of armed forces is an "emotional subject" for him and his government is committed to built a National War Memorial.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday paid a surprise visit to Siachen to celebrate Diwali with soldiers posted at the world’s highest battlefield and hailed the role of the armed forces in securing the country. 

Before reaching Srinagar, he went to Siachen early in the morning and spent more than an hour with the soldiers at a base camp situated at a height of over 12,000 feet. 

He praised their valour and courage, saying that 125 crore Indians could celebrate Diwali, and go about their lives in comfort, because the jawans stood guard at the borders, prepared to make every sacrifice for the nation.
From the icy heights, he also extended Diwali greetings to President Pranab Mukherjee.
Mr. Modi told the jawans that he had come unannounced, and they may be surprised, but one does not need to announce arrival when coming to one’s own family. 

“I have specially come on the occasion of Diwali to be with you. I am aware how it feels like to spend Diwali with your family. The happiness is different, but you are so involved in the devotion of your motherland that family is spending Diwali somewhere else and you are somewhere else guarding the motherland,” he said. 

“My coming to this place will not fill the void of your family members, but as a representative of 125 crore people... after being with you I feel proud and satisfied,” Mr. Modi told the jawans. 

This is Mr. Modi’s first Diwali as Prime Minister which he decided to spend on the 18,875-foot glacier with soldiers. 

He said the issue of armed forces was an “emotional subject” for him and his government was committed to built a National War Memorial. 

“How many decades have passed without One Rank One Pension. It was in my destiny that One rank One pension has been fulfilled, and preparations were being made for a National War Memorial, that we could all be proud of. The government is committed to the cause,” he said. 

Talking about the hardships faced by the armed forces, especially in the tough terrain of Siachen, Mr. Modi said he was himself able to witness the precarious conditions the soldiers were working in while making his journey to the icy glacier.

Why the One Rank One Pension scheme is so terribly important for the Indian military

The scheme implies payment of a uniform pension to personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement.

Shivani Sharma Dasmahapatra  · 26 May 2015 · 12:30 pm

Source: http://scroll.in/article/

There’s talk once again of the One Rank One Pension scheme for the armed forces in the country’s news pages. Once again, political parties are wrangling over it as more than 2.5 million veterans who have been waiting for the scheme for three decades watch from the sidelines.

One Rank One Pension, or OROP, implies payment of a uniform pension to personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement. At present, pensioners who retired before 2006 draw a lower pension than their counterparts and juniors who retired afterwards.

The disparity between past and present pensioners has grown with every successive Pay Commission. It became most visible after the implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission’s recommendations in 2000s. A sepoy who retired before 1996 gets 82% less pension than a sepoy who retired after 2006. Among officers, a major who retired pre-1996 gets 53% less pension than a major who retired post-2006.

Predictably, this situation has left the ex-servicemen community extremely unhappy.
Why military pensions are different

Until 1973, officers drew 50% of their last drawn salary as pension every month and jawans/junior commissioned officers drew 70%. But this changed after the Third Pay Commission’s suggestions came in that year: military pensions were reduced and aligned with civilian pensions.

Many of those who resist One Rank One Pension argue that, given the alignment in military and civilian pensions, the scheme for the military may prompt similar calls from others. Their argument is, however, misplaced. Notwithstanding the pensions, the military is distinct from other government services.

To start with, armed forces personnel do not get to serve as long as those in the civil services. While the retirement age for civil servants is 60 years, 85% soldiers are compulsorily retired between 35 and 37 years of age and another 12% to 13% soldiers between 40 and 54 years.

Further, civil servants are protected under Section 47 of the Disability Act and cannot be discharged by the government on account of disability until they reach the retirement age. This section doesn’t apply to the defence forces and they can be discharged anytime on account of disability.

The Legal Position

In 1983, the Supreme Court had ruled in the case of DS Nakra and others vs Union of India that “pension is not a bounty nor a matter of grace depending upon the sweet will of the employer. It is not an ex-gratia payment, but a payment for past services rendered."

The apex court spoke again on this issue in the case of Union of India vs Maj Gen SPS Vains & Others in 2009. It ruled then that no defence personnel senior in rank could get a lower pension than his junior irrespective of the date of retirement, and that similarly placed officers of the same rank should be given the same pension irrespective of the date of retirement.

On February 17 this year, the court, while hearing a contempt petition filed by Maj Gen (Retd) SPS Vains, directed the Centre to implement its six-year-old verdict and follow the OROP principle for retired armed forces personnel. It reminded the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government that the party had promised to do so in the run-up to last year’s Lok Sabha elections.

The bench, comprising Justices TS Thakur and AK Goel, warned the government of contempt if it failed to abide by the order within three months. “We make it clear that no further time will be granted for the purpose of [the] implementation of the judgement,” it told additional solicitor general Pinky Anand.

Long overdue

The OROP scheme has been on an endless journey for the past three decades. Successive governments have ignored it or pushed it to the backburner, suggesting that armed forces veterans are secondary to political expediency and politics. Last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had offered new hope when he said his government would implement it “as soon as possible.”

While the euphoria generated by Modi’s statements pre- and post-election has died down, the military veterans are still cautious. They have heard statements before declaring that OROP has been “cleared,” “finalised”, “signed.” They now want a government order that confirms the scheme, putting an end to the pension disparity that has hurt so many veterans across ranks.


The decades-long governmental apathy towards ex-servicemen’s demands has put a financial squeeze  on veterans who retired years ago and now can’t meet the rising costs of living with their low pensions. It has also projected the armed forces as an unattractive career option for the youth. Lured by the far more lucrative salaries in the corporate sector, hundreds of officers opt out of the services for better financial prospects. This has led to an acute shortage of manpower in the armed forces.

While the armed forces are called upon to help in every major emergency – be it the Yemen evacuations, the Uttarakhand flood rescue operation, or Operation Maitri in earthquake-hit Nepal – there is nobody heeding the call when these men are in need. The Indian government must fulfil its much-repeated promise if it wants to keep the country’s armed forces motivated.

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