Upholding a judgment of the Chandigarh Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), the Supreme Court ruled that soldiers injured while on duly authorized leave are entitled to grant of disability pension. The Tribunal’s judgment was challenged by the Central government in the Supreme Court, which dismissed the civil appeal observing that there was no infirmity in the conclusions reached by the Tribunal.
After discussing various Supreme Court judgments in favour of and against the proposition of grant of disability pension to soldiers injured during leave in November 2011, the Tribunal’s Bench comprising Justice Ghanshyam Prashad and Lt Gen HS Panag had held that disability pension would be entitled to such persons when the injury was not due their own fault and when they were not engaged in a militarily inconsistent activity. Disposing a case where a soldier was injured in a road accident, the Tribunal had concluded that it was its duty to give a beneficial interpretation to such social welfare schemes and policy had to be interpreted liberally since roads were now flooded with vehicles while the rules were originally framed in 1950 and that otherwise it shall lead to grave injustice to soldiers who defend the frontiers. The Tribunal also observed that while civilians were retained in service on incurring disabilities, defence personnel could be discharged. It observed that if military personnel could not be retained they must be adequately compensated for being discharged on account of disabilities so that they could meet their own and their families’ basic needs. The issue of denial of benefits to disabled soldiers and tendency of the defence ministry of filing multiple appeals against disability pension to disabled soldiers in the SC, was also raised in the Parliament in August 2013 by several MPs.