‘Our concern is ex-Army personnel should get money‘, SC to Centre on OROP
On Monday, the Supreme Court expressing concerns over the non-payment of pensions to personnel from the armed forces asked Defence Ministry to come up with a roadmap for the payment of arrears under the One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme by next week, and also told the Ministry that it cannot take law in its own hands by issuing communication on payment of arrears in four installments.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud told Attorney General (AG) R Venkataramani to submit a comprehensive note by Monday next week showing steps taken so far and also the shortest possible time to pay the arrears.
“Our concern is that our ex-Army personnel should get the money… It is also sad that 4 lakh people have died… come with a good note on Monday…. what exactly quantum which has to be paid. Two, what are the modalities for payment, and three, what is the prioritization. The oldest people, you can take widows first of Army personnel, you can have some categorization…” Senior advocate Huzefa Ahmedi, representing the petitioner, contended before the court that 4 lakh pensioners have died since the filing of the OROP petition.
The bench, also comprising Justices P S Narasimha and J B Pardiwala told the Ministry to immediately withdraw its January 20 communication, which said OROP arrears will be paid in four installments. “First withdraw this (January 20 notification)…then we will consider your application for extension of time“, the bench told the AG.
The Chief Justice queried AG, when are you planning to pay? Venkataramani contended that one installment of OROP arrears to ex-servicemen has been paid but needs some more time for further payments. The AG added, “by March 31, another Rs.2000 crore will be paid and I want to take it entirely under my supervision, how best we can push it”.
The top court made it clear that the Defence Ministry’s January 20 communication was completely contrary to its verdict and it cannot unilaterally say it will pay OROP arrears in four installments.
At the outset, the bench said, “We saw that the communication of January 20, the Ministry cannot take law in its own hand…issued letter…. after we had fixed time…”. The bench added that if this communication is not withdrawn, it will ask the secretary of defence to be present in the court.
On February 27, the Supreme Court slammed the Ministry of Defence over its January 20 communication in connection with the payment of arrears of OROP in installments to eligible pensioners of the armed forces.
The apex court was hearing an application filed by the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM), in which they have sought to set aside the Defence Ministry’s January 20 communication.
Last year in March, the apex court delivered a judgment on the plea filed by the IESM through advocate Balaji Srinivasan against the Centre’s formula.
The apex court on January 9, 2023, had granted time till March 15 to the Centre for payment of total arrears of OROP to all eligible pensioners of the armed forces.
Later, the government moved the apex court seeking an extension of time till March 15, 2023, for payment of arrears of the OROP scheme to all eligible pensioners of the armed forces.
The Centre has so far two extensions from the apex court to clear the arrears after it had first moved the top court in June, last year and sought three months to compute and make payments in accordance with the apex court verdict.
[With Inputs from IANS]
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