Begin typing your search above and press return to search.
Top Stories

Soldier Can't Claim Disability Pension Based On Medical Examination Conducted Years After His Discharge : Supreme Court

Sohini Chowdhury
21 July 2022 4:32 AM GMT
Soldier Cant Claim Disability Pension Based On Medical Examination Conducted Years After His Discharge : Supreme Court
x

The Supreme Court, on Tuesday, noted in order to be eligible for disability pension under Rule 14 of the Entitlement Rules for Casualty Pensionary Awards, 1982, it is not sufficient to demonstrate that the ailment or disability of a soldier had arisen in service. It ought to be also established that the conditions of military service determined or contributed to the onset of the disease and...

The Supreme Court, on Tuesday, noted in order to be eligible for disability pension under Rule 14 of the Entitlement Rules for Casualty Pensionary Awards, 1982, it is not sufficient to demonstrate that the ailment or disability of a soldier had arisen in service. It ought to be also established that the conditions of military service determined or contributed to the onset of the disease and that the conditions were due to the circumstances of duty in military service.

While rejecting grant of benefit of Section 14(b) and 14(c) to the soldier (respondent) who was discharged not on medical, but administrative grounds, a Bench comprising Justices Indira Banerjee and V. Ramasubramanian noted that to establish the reason for disability or ailment reliance has to be placed on expert medical opinion based on an in depth study of the cause and nature of an ailment/disability including the symptoms; the conditions of service to which the soldier was exposed; and the connection between the cause/aggravation of the ailment/disability and the conditions and/or requirements of service.

Factual Background

After rendering service to the Indian Army for over 9.5 years, the respondent was discharged from duty on administrative grounds, as an 'undesirable soldier under Rule 13(3) III(v) of the Army Rules, 1954', on 05.04.1997. He did not challenge the discharge, but claimed disability pension. On 19.05.1998, his claim for the disability pension was rejected. An appeal was filed against the rejection, which was not entertained by the Appellate Authority. The decision was communicated to him on 11.01.2000. Almost 20 years after discharge, on 25.08.2017, the respondent sent a legal notice claiming pension in terms of the judgment of the Apex Court in Union of India v. Rajbir Singh. Not satisfied with the response to the legal notice, the respondent had approached the Tribunal claiming disability pension and benefits under Regulation 183 of the Army Pension Regulation, 1961. The same was allowed.

Decision of the Apex Court

Noting that unlike Rajbir, the respondent herein was not discharged on medical grounds, the Court distinguished the case of Rajbir Singh (supra) from the present one. During the course of his service, on seven occasions, the respondent had earned red ink entries in his service records. The Tribunal's purported finding that the unauthorised absence was on account of ailment was held to be 'patently conjectural' by the Court. The Release Medical Board, while expressing opinion regarding the respondent's "Right Partial Seizure with Secondary Generalization 345", had clarified that the same was not attributable or aggravated by his military service. The opinion was reiterated by the Review Medical Board, convened pursuant to an order of the Tribunal. The Court further noted that -

"...the question of entitlement of soldiers to disability pension cannot be determined on the basis of medical examination conducted 20 years after his discharge."

It was of the opinion that in the absence of any finding of infirmity is the opinion of the Release Medical Board, the constitution of the Review Medical Board by the Tribunal was not warranted.

The Tribunal's reliance on the judgment in Rajbir Singh (supra) was also discerned by it. The Court observed that Rule 14(b) of the Entitlement Rules for Casualty Pensionary Awards, 1982 is only attracted when a disease, generally deemed to have arisen during service, leads to an individual's discharge or death. However, it was clarified that merely because the disease had arisen in service would not mean that it is attributable to service conditions.

Even if it is assumed that the disease was accepted as having arisen in service, as per Rule 14(c) he had to demonstrate that the conditions of military service determined or contributed to the onset of the disease and that the conditions were due to the circumstances of duty in military service. Considering that in order to find out the reason for such disability, reliance has to be placed on expert medical opinion, it noted that the Tribunal had overlooked the mandate of Rule 14(c).

The Court reiterated -

"For over 20 years from the date of the discharge, the Respondent did not challenge his discharge on the administrative ground of being an undesirable soldier. His discharge on administrative grounds could not have been challenged after two decades."

Also Read : Army Personnel Not Entitled To Disability Pension If Injury Is Not Attributable To Military Service : Supreme Court

Case Name: Union of India And Ors. v. Ex Sep. R. Munusamy

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 619

Case No. and Date: Civil Appeal No. 6536 of 2021 | 19 July 2022

Coram: Justices Indira Ranerjee and V. Ramasubramanian

Headnotes

Disability pension - Army -the question of entitlement of soldiers to disability pension cannot be determined on the basis of medical examination conducted 20 years after his discharge (Para 15)

Entitlement Rules for Casualty Pensionary Awards, 1982; Rule 14(b) - the Rule is only attracted when a disease leads to an individual's discharge or death - such disease is ordinarily to be deemed to have arisen in service, if no note of it was made at the time of the individual's acceptance for military service, but not always - in any case, the presumption under Rule 14(b) of the Entitlement Rules is rebuttable - if medical opinion holds, for reasons to be stated, that the disease could not have been detected on medical examination prior to acceptance for service, the disease will not be deemed to have arisen during service. [Paragraph 20]

Entitlement Rules for Casualty Pensionary Awards, 1982; Rule 14(c) if a disease were accepted as having arisen in service, it must also be established that the conditions of military service determined or contributed to the onset of the disease and that the conditions were due to the circumstances of duty in military service - reason for disability or ailment - reliance would necessarily have to be placed on expert medical opinion based on an in depth study of the cause and nature of an ailment/disability including the symptoms thereof, the conditions of service to which the soldier was exposed and the connection between the cause/aggravation of the ailment/disability and the conditions and/or requirements of service. [Paragraph 23, 25]

Click Here To Read/Download Judgment



Next Story