The Chandigarh Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) in its landmark decision held that there cannot be any discrimination in injury benefits to soldiers injured in pre-Independence and post-Independence wars. Seeking to end this discrimination in injury benefits, the AFT on 18 July 2017 ordered that troopers injured in pre-Independence wars be should given 'war injury pension' like those wounded after it.
The judgement was passed by a bench of AFT comprising Justice Bansi Lal Bhat and Lt. General Sanjiv Chachra while hearing a case filed by one Sowar Amar Singh (a 94-year-old war veteran) of the Armoured Corps.
Highlights of the Decision
• The AFT has also directed the government to identify similarly placed soldiers and release their benefits without forced litigation.
• The bench in its last week's order reminded the government that the cut-off date of 1996 in the government letter had already been struck down by the Supreme Court. Hence, the same could not be used to deny such benefits.
Sowar Amar Singh’s Plea
Bhiwani-based 94-year-old Sowar Amar Singh of the Armoured Corps had approached the AFT with a plea that despite having been injured during World War II, he was being paid regular disability pension. He accused that he was not being paid the war injury pension, which is granted to soldiers disabled in operational areas.
In his plea, Singh said that it made no difference that soldiers were fighting for the British Crown during the World War II or post-Independence. He said that the World War II was a war of humanity against fascist forces and the same British Indian Army was inherited by the post-independence Indian Army with effect from 15th August 1947.
The government resisted Singh's claim, saying when war injury pension was initially introduced, it was applicable only to post-Independence wars and disabilities in international peacekeeping missions.
The concept of war injury pension for disabilities incurred in 'international wars' was introduced only in January 1996 vide a letter issued in 2001 but since the soldier was a pre-1996 retiree, the said benefit could not be granted to him.
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