Saturday, February 16, 2013

Ministry of Defence betrays its soldiers – Rank Pay implementation letter fails to comply Supreme Court Judgement

By Maj Gen Satbir Singh (retd)

The Ministry of Defence had itself accepted through affidavits and submissions before the SC that implementation of the judgement in rank and pay would involve re-fixation of not only the Fourth Pay Commission, but would affect successive pay commissions.

ONCE again the Ministry of Defence has betrayed its soldiers. The Supreme Court judgement in the rank pay case has not been implemented in letter and spirit, making it largely redundant. The MoD has not only denied pay scale upgradation for officers but also, as a result, left out re-fixation of pensions of those who retired before January 1986 as well as consequential benefits to all officers arising out of the implementation of the fifth and sixth pay commissions. This is another case of bureaucratic manipulation against soldiers. The ministry’s letter of December 27, 2012 is applicable to only about 20,000 officers who were holding the rank of Captain to Brigadier on January 1, 1986, whereas it should have covered all officers who are in receipt of pay or pension or family pension which is about 80,000.

A photo with caption "Navy personnel outside South Block, that houses the Ministry of Defence, in New Delhi. The role played by the ministry in the functioning of the Tribunal has been challenged in courts of law, with the Supreme Court and High Courts ruling that tribunals are better placed under the Ministry of Law" could not be reproduced

The Apex Court clearly ruled that the rank pay granted by the Fourth Pay Commission (FPC) was wrongly deducted from basic pay and ordered re-fixation of pay “with effect from” and not “as on” January 1, 1986, as mentioned in the letter. The letter states that the judgement has no bearing on fifth and sixth pay commissions, and that there shall be no change in instructions issued thereof except those necessitated due to re-fixation of pay on January 1, 1986.

The deduction of rank pay had resulted in depressed scales and status, and once corrected should have resulted in automatic upgradation of FPC scales as well as successive ones, as was fully argued before the court and contained in the various affidavits filed by both the petitioners and the UOI.

The MoD should be questioned as to how the rank of Captain, which was shown before the Supreme Court as equal to Senior Time Scale (STS) till the Third Pay Commission (TPC), was suddenly degraded in the FPC, making STS equal to Major. There was no order by the FPC or any other authority to degrade the rank and club it with Junior Time Scale (JTS). This shows systematic degradation by the MoD without knowledge of the political executive.

Till TPC, Second Lieutenant and Lieutenant were equated with JTS and Captain with STS. After the rank pay fiasco in the FPC, three ranks, that is Second Lieutenant, Lieutenant and Captain were shown clubbed with a single civilian rank of JTS. How could it be allowed that the first military rank of Second Lieutenant along with two promotional ranks of Lieutenant and Captain were all clubbed with the first civilian rank? All happened because of the strange manipulations in the rank pay saga which have now been corrected by the SC.

Similarly a Major drew pay equal to the Selection Grade/Non-Functional Selection Grade of the civil services, but today an SG/NFSG officer enjoys a status and draws a pay equal to a Colonel. Such manipulations and degradation of status and sheen of the military rank continue where civilian staff put up noting sheets and get approvals without taking into confidence the military staff.

Stake-holders be consulted before taking decisions that affect them, but it has always been a one-sided affair. The defence minister should know that elements inimical to the soldier would ensure that he does not get to know the correct situation and there is a huge gap between what is projected to him and what is the reality.

The MoD had itself accepted through affidavits and submissions before the SC that implementation of the judgement would involve re-fixation of not only the FPC, but would affect successive pay commissions. Further, it would alter payment of all consequential and resultant benefits of officers and their families wherever applicable. In an affidavit seeking extension of time for implementation of the judgement, the MoD had stated that the judgement related to three successive pay commissions and also affected the benefits of those who retired prior to 1986.

Then how can the MoD issue instructions contrary to the above submission? The staff concerned has very carefully chosen to stick on to certain words without looking at the spirit of the entire order and court proceedings.

The judgement, which was to have a cascading effect on the fixation of pay scales from January 1986 till date, has fraudulently been made applicable only to those persons who were in receipt of rank pay in January 1986.

The letter can easily be termed as “rarest of rare fraud, perjury and Injustice to the defence forces”. How does the government expect demoralised and demotivated officers to lead from the front and sacrifice their lives when it is denying them their due respect, status, inter se equation with other services and emoluments? Certainly the government has clearly not been fair to defence personnel. The letter of December 27, 2012 should be withdrawn and a fresh letter incorporating all aspects of the SC judgement correctly needs to be issued immediately.

By the kind courtesy of The Tribune, Chandigarh dated 15 February 2013

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