Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Rank Pay Case - Some analysis and facts revealed by Maj Navdeep Singh - Advocate
Rank Pay forms a part of basic pay, release arrears to affected officers : Supreme Court,
Perhaps historically the most important litigation involving the military has culminated today.
A three judge Bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court today decided not to interfere with its earlier decision granting the cumulative benefits and arrears of Rank Pay with effect from 01-01-1986 to all affected officers. However, the interest component has been modified and interest @ 6% per annum would now be admissible on the arrears from 01-01-2006 rather than 01-01-1986.
All payments have been directed to be made within a period of 12 weeks from today and the benefits shall be released to all officers irrespective of whether they had approached a judicial forum or not.
As many would be aware, after the 4th Central Pay Commission (CPC), an integrated pay scale of Rs 2300-5100 was implemented for officers from the rank of 2/Lt to Brig. In addition, rank pay was authorised to officers from the rank of Capt to Brig ranging from Rs 200 to 1200 which was to be added into the basic pay for all intents and purposes.
However, while fixing the pay in the new scales, an amount equal to the rank pay was deducted from the emoluments resulting in financial loss to all affected officers. Hence all officers holding the rank of Capt to Brig as on 01-01-1986 suffered cumulative losses.
The Hon’ble Kerala High Court in a case filed by Maj AK Dhanapalan had termed illegal this deduction of rank pay. The SLP filed by the Union of India was also dismissed, albeit not on merits but on technical grounds of limitation.
Soon thereafter, many similar petitions were filed in various Hon’ble High Courts all over the country which were clubbed together and transferred to the Hon’ble Supreme Court to be heard alongwith an SLP of similar nature which had arisen out of a case that was allowed on the basis of the judgement in Dhanapalan’s case.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court on 08 March 2010 upheld the said verdict and granted relief to all similarly placed officers alongwith an interest of 6%.
Things were however not to end there since the Govt constituted a committee to look into the amount involved and went back to the Hon’ble Supreme Court by filing an application for recall of the order dated 08 March 2010 on the grounds of burdening of the exchequer and also stating therein that many more issues on the subject were not taken into consideration by the Court and hence the order needed to be recalled.
The case thereafter remained pending before the Hon’ble Supreme Court and was finally argued today when the Hon’ble Court, after hearing marathon arguments of the Solicitor General appearing for the govt, decided that there was no infirmity in the order passed on 08 March 2010. As informed above, only the modification in the grant of the interest component was effectuated.
The case was not without surprising developments which can now be shared since the issue no longer remains sub judice.
First was the total incorrect and skewed presentation of the status and pay of military officers vis-à-vis officers of the civil services projected in the affidavit appended with the recall application filed by the Union of India. The speciousness thereof has already been discussed by me on the blog in November 2011 and all those falsities were exposed in the affidavit filed on behalf of the affected officers before the Hon’ble Court.
Secondly, which can be disclosed now, is that when it was being projected by the Govt that the Services HQ were also in favour of getting the verdict recalled/reversed, the three services on the basis of a decision taken at the apex level, clearly, officially and categorically informed the Solicitor General in writing that the Armed Forces were not in favour of the matter being contested against the affected officers and in fact were in favour of getting the verdict of the SC dated 08 March 2010 implemented. Thereafter, the Ministry of Defence wrote to the Services HQ asking them to withdraw the communication to the Solicitor General, however to the credit of the Services, the said communication was ultimately not withdrawn. Besides showing utter disregard for the opinion of the services in this matter, this incident also shows as to how the MoD tries to browbeat the services into accepting its views. Needless to state, in litigation, one party to a particular litigation can never direct another to take a particular stand. However this has been continuing unabated in the MoD wherein they force the Services to reflect the stand of the MoD before Courts and not project their (services’) independent views as is permissible under law. And unfortunately, it’s also seen that elements of the JAG Branch usually toe the line of the MoD rather than the Services.
The biggest ‘Thank You’ for this win goes to Retired Defence Officers’ Association (RDOA) who had been unflinchingly following up the matter with great zeal in a very objective and balanced manner.