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Benefits Provided To Dependents Of Freedom Fighters 'For Perpetuity' Need A Relook: Allahabad HC To Union, State Govts

Sparsh Upadhyay
5 Dec 2021 12:54 PM GMT
Benefits Provided To Dependents Of Freedom Fighters For Perpetuity Need A Relook: Allahabad HC To Union, State Govts
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The Allahabad High Court last week observed that it is high time when the governments have a re-look for providing concessions to dependents of freedom fighters and examine as to whether it remains desirable to allow such facilities to continue any further.Importantly, the Bench of Justice Ashwani Kumar Mishra and Justice Vikram D. Chauhan also stressed that benefits extended to...

The Allahabad High Court last week observed that it is high time when the governments have a re-look for providing concessions to dependents of freedom fighters and examine as to whether it remains desirable to allow such facilities to continue any further.

Importantly, the Bench of Justice Ashwani Kumar Mishra and Justice Vikram D. Chauhan also stressed that benefits extended to family members of freedom fighters by providing reservations in employment and other benefits ought not to be continued in perpetuity nor such privileges can be claimed as a matter of right.

With these observations, the Court asked the Government of India and Uttar Pradesh Government to take note of the concerns expressed by the Court and to formulate appropriate policy measures consistent with the constitutional ethos.

Essentially, the Court was dealing with a 61-year-old petitioner's plea seeking issuance of a writ of mandamus directing the respondents to give freedom fighter pension to petitioner, in accordance with the law [as per The Uttar Pradesh Public Services (Reservation for Physically Handicapped, Dependents of Freedom Fighters and ExServicemen) Act, 1993].

Appearing for the State Government, the Counsel pointed out that the Act of 1993 provides for reservation in employment to the dependents of freedom fighters and does not contemplate payment of any pensionary benefits to such dependents.

Further, referring to the Government of India's 'Swatantrata Sainik Samman Pension Scheme, 1980', it was pointed out that after the death of freedom fighters, eligible dependents for family pension are Spouse/Unmarried and Unemployed Daughters/Mother or Father.

Therefore, it was argued that since the petitioner does not fall in any of the categories, his claim for payment of pension is not sustainable.

Agreeing with the submissions of the State Counsel, the Court rejected the contention of the petitioner that since he is unemployed and, therefore, he is entitled to payment of freedom fighter pension and rejected the plea while observing thus:

"...if the petitioner has managed to survive till the age of 60 years, it is difficult to entertain a claim now at the age of 61 years. We find substance in the contention advanced on behalf of the respondents, as per which, petitioner's claim for payment of pension is not covered under the scheme and, therefore, no such direction can be issued."

However, before parting with the case, the court observed that a series of enactments and schemes have been introduced by the Government of India and also the State Government to honor the contribution of freedom fighters in securing independence for the country but the continuation of such benefits for their dependents needs a re-look.

"These schemes/enactments convey the sentiments of gratitude by the grateful nation towards its heroes and are indeed laudable...We may, however, note that sacrifice made by the freedom fighters although needs to be remembered and cherished but the benefits extended to family members by providing reservations in employment and other benefits ought not to be continued in perpetuity nor such privileges can be claimed as a matter of right," the Court added.

Noting that the benefits were granted only because the families of freedom fighters had to suffer greatly on account of the contribution made by the freedom fighters which adversely affected the family members and in order to provide the necessary support, reservation, etc. was given to them in employment, the Court further remarked thus:

"Such considerations existed at the time when the country became free or in proximate point of time, thereafter. The considerations in that regard cannot be stretched for an indefinite period...The concessions which are granted for a specific purpose and object to achieve these considerations would not remain relevant after an inordinate period of time."

Case title - Azad Khan v. State Of U.P. And 3 Others 

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