Supreme Court, by invoking powers under Article 142 of the Constitution has asked the Government to pay an exgratia amount of rupees ten lakhs to a widow of Territorial Army personnel.
The Armed Forces Tribunal had dismissed the application filed by the widow seeking family pension for the death of her husband who rendered a total service of about twelve years in Army, holding that he did not have the requisite minimum qualifying embodied service of fifteen years to earn service pension, and hence upon his death while he was in disembodied state, the widow was not entitled to family pension. Aggrieved by this, the widow approached the Apex Court.
It was contended before the Apex Court that while the wife of a regular army soldier, who dies in harness is entitled to family pension even if the deceased soldier had not put in the minimum qualifying service to earn service pension, the same is denied to wife of a deceased Territorial Army soldier on a specious plea that the deceased soldier was in disembodied state when the death took place. This discrimation, according to the appellant, is violation of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
PERSONNEL OF REGULAR ARMY AND TERRITORIAL ARMY NOT SIMILARLY SITUATED
Division Bench comprising of the Chief Justice T.S. Thakur and R. Banumathi agreed with the reasoning of the tribunal that a regular army person and a person enrolled in the Territorial Army are governed by different set of terms and conditions of service and are not similarly situated and therefore they do not form part of the same class in the matter of grant of service benefits and hence, there cannot be a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
CONSIDER FAVOURABILY TO PAY FAMILY PENSION TO NEXT OF KIN OF DECEASED TA PERSONNEL
Observing that there are anomalies in the Rules governing service conditions of Territorial Army men, the court observed,
“Inspite of repeated recommendations, it is not known why steps are not being taken to remove the anomalies to pay family pension to ‘next of kin’ of Territorial Army personnel who rendered long service in Territorial Army and died while in disembodied state. We hope that the Union of India considers the issue favourably to remove the anomalies to pay appropriate family pension to next of kin of Territorial Army personnel who die while in disembodied state by giving due weightage to their embodied service.”
INVOKES ARTICLE 142
Invoking Article 142 of Constitution of India, the Court observed as follows,
“On behalf of the appellant, it was submitted that Raj Singh had unblemished service record and had rendered a total service of about twelve years in Territorial Army (11 years and 289 days) including service in operational area. For quite sometime, the appellant has been pursuing the litigation seeking family pension. Considering the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case and the plight of the appellant, in the interest of justice and in exercise of our power under Article 142 of the Constitution of India, we deem it appropriate to award ex-gratia grant of rupees ten lakhs payable to the appellant.”
Read the Judgment here.