New Delhi [India], March 20 (ANI): The Supreme Court on Monday laid down the deadlines for the Ministry of Defence to clear arrears to eligible pensioners of armed forces as per One Rank One Pension Scheme by February 28 and made it clear that dues will be paid to eligible family pensioners and gallantry winners by April 30 2023 and eligible pensioners above 70 years by June 30 2023.
Meanwhile the Supreme Court refused to accept Centre's sealed cover note.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud directed the Centre to pay arrears to eligible family pensioners and gallantry winners of the armed forces as per One Rank One Pension Scheme by April 30 2023 eligible pensioners above 70 years by June 30 2023 and the rest of eligible pensioners in equal instalments on or before Aug 30 2023, Nov 30, 2023, and Feb 28 2024.
The court issued the direction while hearing the plea filed by retired army personnel seeking payment of their arrears under the OROP Scheme.
Centre told the Supreme Court they are not able to pay pensions arrears in one go.Meanwhile, the Supreme Court refused to accept the sealed cover note filed by the Centre in the matter.
The court said that he is personally aversed to sealed covers and fundamentally against the rules of justice.
The Centre has submitted a sealed cover envelope which contains its proposal to disburse the arrear amount.
The court said that there has to be transparency in court and remarked what can be the secrecy here.
The court said that they need to put an end to this sealed cover practice in Supreme Court because then the High Courts will also start following it and such practice is contrary to the basic process of fair justice.
Attorney General, appearing for the Centre, apprised the Court about the Centre's proposal on payment of arrears to eligible pensions to retired army personnelThe court noted that the budgetary outlay for the defence ministry is Rs 5.85 lakh crore and out of Rs 1.32 lakh core is total planned pension disbursements, Rs 1.2 lakh crore disbursed till February 2023 for 2022-23.
The court noted that the note placed on record states that the finance ministry was consulted and the finance ministry has expressed its inability to provide it in one go and suggested a staggered payment.
Centre has said out of 25 lakh pensioners, 4 lakhs do not qualify for OROP since they now get higher pensions and thus OROP is for 21 lakhs.
Centre also apprised the court that out of this 21 lakh, 6 lakh family pensioners and gallantry award winners will get it by April 30 since family pensioners have lost breadwinners due to the exceptional service of the gallantry award winners.
Earlier hearing, the top court pulled up the Ministry of Defence over passing a unilateral notification extending the time for payment of OROP arrears to retired army personnel.An application was filed by Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM) in the Supreme Court challenging govt notification.
The court had said how can the department modify it when the court passed an order to pay the arrears by March this year.
The decision to implement OROP was taken by the Narendra Modi government on November 7, 2015, with benefits effective from July 1, 2014. OROP was a long-standing demand of the armed forces and implies that retired soldiers of the same rank, who have retired after serving for the same length of service, will receive the same pension, irrespective of the date and year of their retirement.
Earlier the top court dismissed the review petition which had challenged its decision on the One Rank One Pension" policy. The review petition was moved in the Supreme Court challenging the top court judgement delivered in March last year.
The Supreme Court in March last year had uphold the Centre Government decision on One Rank One Pension as it said that the OROP definition is not arbitrary and it does not find any constitutional infirmity in the OROP principle as defined by the communication dated 7 November 2015. (ANI)