Monday, April 1, 2013

Shocking And Contemptuous Statements Before The Parliamentary Committee On Defence

Dated: 30 Mar 2013
Dear Veterans
Letter to RM, PM, some leaders, three Chiefs dated 30 Mar 2013 titled “Shocking And Contemptuous Statements By Secretary Of The Department Of Ex-Servicemen Welfare (DESW) Before The Parliamentary Committee On Defence Examining Issues Relating To functioning Of Armed Forces Tribunal, Which Not Only Show Administrative Arrogance But Also Lower The Dignity Of Courts Of The Country” is enclosed herewith for your information and widest circulation please.
With Regards,
Yours Sincerely,
Maj Gen (Retd) Satbir Singh, SM                                                                         
Vice Chairman Indian ESM Movement                                                                  
Mobile:9312404269, 0124-4110570                                                                     
Dated: 30 Mar 2013
Raksha Mantri
Ministry of Defence
South Block
New Delhi- 110 011


Dear Mr Raksha Mantri,

1.       Time and again it has been brought to your notice that the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare (DESW) which is meant to look after the interests of defence veterans and their families, does not have even one person from the defence community at the policy level. However all pleas have fallen on deaf ears and India must be the only country where a department meant for the welfare of defence veterans has no representation of the said group and on the contrary harbours a deep anti-veteran sentiment.

2.     The recently submitted report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence (18th Report) which was examining issues related to granting of civil contempt powers to the Armed Forces Tribunal has exposed the true feelings that the DESW holds towards defence veterans and judiciary of this nation. The Secretary DESW has also proved that DESW has perverse and separate views than the overall stand of Ministry of Defence (MoD) expressed by the Defence Secretary and by the Law & Justice Secretary.

3.      We would like to place on record our deep shock, surprise, astonishment and disapproval of the following stand of the DESW in general and contemptuous  statements of the Secretary DESW in particular:-

A.   In Paragraph 3.9 of the report, Secretary DESW states that court decisions are not implemented if they are against government policy. The Secretary DESW also conveys that there is freedom as regards the implementation of such decisions. May we remind you Raksha Mantri ji that court decisions are binding upon the government and have to be implemented till there is a stay on their operation by a higher court. The statement on the government having freedom of implementation lowers the dignity of the entire judiciary. May we also remind you Raksha Mantri ji that Courts and Tribunals are only approached when a person is not granted relief as per existing policy or guidelines of the government and in that sense almost all decisions rendered against the government are bound to be against government policy, would that mean that all decisions of all Courts and Tribunals are wrong?                                                                                                                    
B.   In Paragraph 3.10, the Secretary DESW casts aspersions on the Administrative Members of the Armed Forces Tribunal saying that there is conflict of interest while deciding pensionary matters. Such an aspersion on senior retired military officers is uncalled for and is condemned. Have you, Raksha Mantri ji, also heard of any such aspersion being cast on Administrative Members of the Central Administrative Tribunal?

C.   In Paragraph 3.11, the Secretary DESW complains that Tribunals are passing orders against policy issues which they cannot do. May we remind you Raksha Mantri ji that Tribunals are bound to comment on reasonableness of policies and quash them when they are found to be illegal and it is very much within the domain of the Tribunals as held by a Seven Judges Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court reported as 1997 AIR (SC) 1125. The same has been repeated by Constitutional Courts time and again which have held that unless Tribunals examine policy decisions, there shall be duplicity of proceedings which would result in defeating the very purpose of forming Tribunals. In any case, if a litigant is satisfied with government policy or action, then why would he or she even approach any court? If policies are so sacred then there is no requirement of any court or Tribunal in this country.

D.  In Paragraph 3.12, the Secretary DESW shamelessly talks of the merits and demerits of cases being heard by judicial bodies on which there are already positive pronouncements by the Supreme Court in favour of disabled soldiers and which are being examined by your office also albeit on the misleading inputs of DESW staff. What authority does the DESW have to talk of merits or demerits of judicial proceedings outside the court and thereby trying to cloud the thinking process of the committee? The Secretary also contemptuously says that going beyond policy is not a routine but complains about one or two benches which are not following MoD policy. Can a member of the executive speak so contemptuously about judicial bodies and their judicial functioning? Can anybody even dare to state that a judicial body is passing orders against policy framed by executive authorities? If the judiciary will not pass orders interpreting policies or quashing illegal policies/letters/OMs then who would? Raksha Mantri ji, how could you allow one of your Secretaries to speak in this manner against judiciary?

4.    It is brought to your notice that none of the issues commented upon by the Secretary DESW were supported by the Defence Secretary or the Secretary, Ministry of Law and Justice, both of whom understood that AFT is a judicial body and is to be accorded due respect and authority. It is also not understood what right did the DESW have in presenting its views to the Committee and in which capacity? As far as powers of grant of civil contempt are concerned, there could only be three agencies who could be actually called the stake-holders or who could logically be associated with the subject, that is, the Defence Ministry through the Defence Secretary, the Ministry of Law and Justice through its Secretary and the end users, that is, private individuals or ex-servicemen organizations. At most the value and support of comments of legal experts could be taken.

5.     It has earlier been complained to you by ex-servicemen, Defence Services HQ as well as ex-servicemen bodies that DESW is manned by certain officers who are openly anti-defence personnel, and unlike the Civil Department of Pensions and Pensioners’ welfare (DOPPW), there is no representation of the stake holders in policy or decision making process. It also seems from the statements made before the Parliamentary Committee that the DESW wants to make AFT subservient to its interests or treat is as another office of the MoD and not like a judicial body. The DESW also continues to file appeals time and again in the SC against verdicts rendered in favour of defence personnel by various Courts. In fact even otherwise, despite Supreme Court decisions to the contrary, the AFT continues to function under and remain under the administrative control of the MoD which reflects a total conflict of interest since the AFT is to pass orders against the MoD only. The MoD should have no control over the benefits or facilities granted to AFT members or on rules or functioning of the AFT since it cannot be made to be a judge of its own cause. The AFT and its Members should be provided adequate, due and proper facilities, respect and accommodation by an independent body such as the Law and Justice Ministry.
6.   In light of the above, we re-iterate the following:

(a) That the statements of Secretary DESW before the Parliamentary Committee are deplorable and are hereby condemned by us being contemptuous towards the AFT in particular and towards judiciary in general. The Secretary DESW also had no business to comment on judicial functioning of the Tribunal or to cast aspersions on Members of the Tribunal or complain against individual Benches of the Tribunal. He also had no business to comment on merits of judicial issues and pronouncements which have been upheld by even the Hon’ble Supreme Court. Suitable action may be taken against the said officer.

(b)  That there should be adequate representation of defence veterans in the decision and policy making mechanism for policies which affect them, on lines of the Department of Pensions and Pensioners’ Welfare (DoPPW) which functions under the DoPT. Polices related to defence veterans cannot be forcibly imposed on them without taking their views into consideration.  The DESW be restructured to be headed and manned by serving and retired defence personnel at the decision making level.

(c) Like other democracies of the world, there is immediate need to establish.     Ex Servicemen Commission, to be headed and manned by ESM, and a few judges.  Though agreed by the Govt in 2008, it has yet not been established.  The same be constituted on priority. 

(d)  The Armed Forces Tribunal should be immediately placed under the independent control of the Ministry of Law and Justice as directed in similar cases of L Chandra Kumar and R Gandhi (1997 and 2010) by the Hon’ble Supreme Court and also now endorsed by the Parliamentary Committee. The AFT and members be provided proper facilities and accommodation and be totally delinked from the MoD against which they have to pass all orders. No direct or indirect control over the AFT or service conditions and benefits of the Members should be wielded by the MoD.

(e)    We appreciate the approach of the Defence Secretary and the Secretary and representatives of the Ministry of Law and Justice for fully realizing the importance of the Tribunal and emphasizing on the requirement of its due dignity. Accordingly, as endorsed by all actual stake holders, that is, Defence Ministry, Law and Justice Ministry, affected individuals/organizations and experts examined by the committee, the case for full fledged powers of civil contempt without distinction, as available to the Central Administrative Tribunal, be processed  and granted for the Armed Forces Tribunal.                                                                                                          
7.   You are requested to act upon the above.

Thanking You
With Regards,                                                    
Yours Sincerely,
Jai Hind

Maj Gen (Retd) Satbir Singh, SM   
Vice Chairman Indian Ex Servicemen Movement
Mobile:9312404269, 0124-411057                        

Copy to:-
Dr Manmohan Singh                                       
Hon’ble Prime Minister of India                          
10 Parliament House                               
New Delhi -110011

Smt. Sushma Swaraj,                                
Leader of the Opposition in
Lok Sabha Shri Satish C Gupta 44,                               
Parliament House, New Delhi -01

Smt Sonia Gandhi                                                                                                      
President Indian National Congress 
Chairperson UPA                                                          
10 Janpath, New Delhi

Shri L. K. Advani                                               
Chairman NDA                                               
30 Prathvi Raj Road                                 
New Delhi -110003

Sh. Rajnath Singh
Bharatiya Janata Party                                                    
38, Ashoka Road
New Delhi - 110 001  
General Bikram Singh, PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, SM, VSM, ADC
Chief of the Army Staff
Integrated HQs of Armed Forces (Army)
South Block, New Delhi-110011.

Admiral Devendra Kumar Joshi, PVSM, AVSM, YSM, NM, VSM,
ADC Chief of the Naval Staff
Integrated HQs of Armed Forces (Navy),
South Block, New Delhi-110011.

Chief Marshal Norman Anil Kumar Browne, PVSM, AVSM, VM
Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee and
Chief of the Air Staff. Vayu Bhawan, New Delhi 110011.

Minister of Law and Justice,
Shastri Bhawan, New Delhi-1

Secretary, Law and Justice,
Shastri Bhawan, New Delhi-1

Defence Secretary,
South Block, New Delhi-11

Armed Forces Tribunal  (AFT)  
(Principal Bench)                             
West Block – VIII,
Opp. Mohan Singh Market,
Sector-I, R .K. Puram, 
New Delhi -110066

Armed Forces Tribunal  (AFT)  
(Chandigarh Regional Bench)                        
T.C.P. Tank, Chandi Mandir,
Punchkula, Haryana- 134107

Armed Forces Tribunal  (AFT)  
(Lucknow  Regional Bench)                             
3, R.A.K. Marg, P.O.
Dilkusha, Lucknow – 226002

Armed Forces Tribunal  (AFT)  
(Kolkatta  Regional Bench)                         
6, Clyde Row, Hastings, 
Kolkatta – 700022

Armed Forces Tribunal  (AFT)  
(Guwahati  Regional Bench)                        
GL, Publication Building,
7th Floor, G.S. Road, 
Guwahati – 781007

Armed Forces Tribunal  (AFT)  
(Mumbai  Regional Bench)                         
7th Floor, MTNL Building,
A.G. Bell Marg, Malabar Hills, 
Mumbai -400006

Armed Forces Tribunal  (AFT)  
(Kochi  Regional Bench)                             
Bristow House, INS Dronacharya,
Beach Road, Kochi – 682001

Armed Forces Tribunal  (AFT)  
(Chennai  Regional Bench)                              
Building No. 1A (Old MH Complex),
Rudhra Road, St. Thomas Mount, Chennai -16

Armed Forces Tribunal  (AFT)  
(Jaipur Regional Bench)                             
Near Chinkara Gate,
Sawai Jai Singh, Jaipur (Rajasthan)

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