The Punjab and Haryana High Court has directed the Federal Government of India to consider granting disability benefits to Defense officer trainees on par with civilian officers while hearing a petition of the wife of a deceased gentleman cadet who was boarded out of the Indian Military Academy for a disability suffered during training.
The deceased gentleman acquired disability during training which was declared “attributable to military service”. Civilian employees who are disabled during training or service cannot be fired from employment due to a disability, there was, however, no such protection for military personnel under the Persons with Disabilities Act.
Further, those civilian trainees and officer-trainees of organizations such as the Central Armed Police Forces who are discharged on account of disabilities, are paid proper disability pension and their widows are paid family pension on demise, whereas officer-trainees of the Defense services are paid a much lower monthly ‘ex gratia’ rather than disability pension.
The petition also states that even below officer rank recruits of the Defense services are paid proper disability pension while officer-trainees of the Defense services are paid a much lower amount.
Providing the figures, the petition avers that while civilian officer-trainees and military jawan-trainees are paid Rs 36,465 and Rs 18,000 per month as disability pension respectively, military officer-trainees are paid only Rs 12,240.
It was also pointed out that while widows of disabled civil officer-trainees and military jawan trainees are paid Rs 16,830 and Rs 9,000 respectively as family pension on their demise, there is no policy to pay any amount at all to widows of disabled military-trainees.
The High Court has directed the Ministry of Defence, the Chief of the Army Staff, and the Adjutant General to consider all points raised in the petition within two months.
The Bench also expressed hope that “unnecessary litigation” on the issue would be avoided.
Sources point out that though this anomaly affects a very low number of trainees invalided out of military academies, the discrimination remains very stark and the then Defence Minister, Late Manohar Parrikar, wanted to rectify the policy.
A Committee of Experts under Parrikar in 2015 had come down heavily upon the staff of the ministry and had remarked that “the non-resolution displays utter insensitivity and obstinacy of the establishment and shows how graciousness and large-heartedness is lacking in all of us”.
The matter, however, continues to hang fire. After Parrikar moved out of the defense ministry, the same objections that had been set aside by him were reiterated on file by ministry staff, sources were quoted as saying in a news report.