The Supreme Court has held that an army official is entitled to disability pension only if the disability is attributable to or aggravated by military service.
On this reasoning, the bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and Hemant Gupta set aside the judgment of Armed Forces Tribunal (Chandigarh bench) which granted disability pension to an official for injuries sustained by him in an accident while going in a scooter to purchase household materials.
In this case - The Secretary, Government of India vs Dharambir Singh - the officer was on leave at the time of accident.
Allowing the appeal filed by the Ministry of Defense against the AFT judgment, the bench held :
"the disability pension is admissible only if injury is either attributable to or aggravated by military service and not that any activity which is unmilitary activity".
"Since the accident has occurred when the respondent was purchasing house hold articles, it cannot be said that there is any causal connection between the injury and the military service.", held the SC.
As per the judgment authored by Justice Hemant Gupta :
"The determining factor is a causal connection between the accident and the military duties. The injury or death must be connected with military service howsoever remote it may be. The injury or death must be intervention of armed service and not an accident which could be attributed to risk common to human beings. When a person is going on a scooter to purchase house hold articles, such activity, even remotely has no causal connection with the military service."
When military officer is on leave
The Court however held that an injury sustained by a military officer will be admissible to disability pension, if the attack on him happened by virtue of his status as a member of armed forces.
In terms of clause (f) of Rule 12 of the Entitlement Rules for Casualty Pensionary Awards, 1982, an accident can be said to be attributable to service when a man is not strictly 'on duty' as defined, provided that it involved risk which was definitely enhanced in kind or degree by the nature, conditions, obligations or incidents of his service and that the same was not a risk common to human existence in modern conditions in India.
Therefore, a person if killed or injured by another person for the reason he belongs to the Armed Forces, he shall be deemed to be 'on duty'. However, in the instant case, the injury occurred while the officer was going for house errands.
To grant the relief, the AFT had referred to the SC judgment in Madan Singh Shekhawat v. Union of India & Ors
The SC however distinguished that judgment on the ground that it was a case where the officer suffered injury while proceeding to leave.
In terms of Rule 12 Note 2 (d) of 1982 Rules read with Regulation 423(a), any injury or death while returning from or going to duty has a causal connection with the military service and, thus, such injury or death is considered attributable to or aggravated by military service.
The judgment quoted with approval the principles laid down by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in the Jagtar Singh v. Union of India & Ors decision as follows :
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