AFT | Arrears of disability pension are restricted to three years prior to filing the application; delay is condoned

Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT): Justice S.V.S. Rathore (Member) and Air Marshal BBP Sinha (Member) dismissed an application by the applicant under Section 14 of the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007.

The applicant was enrolled in the Army in 1984 in a medically fit condition and was invalidated out from service in 1985 in low medical category EEE by the Medical Board for “Tuberculosis Lymphadenitis” which considered the disability at 100% for a period of 2 years. The applicant was brought before Review Medical Boards in the subsequent years in which his disability was assessed at 80%, 60% and 20% and thus disability pension continued till 1993. In the year 1993, the applicant was brought before Review Medical Board and the medical board assessed the disability to be between 6 to 10% (less than 20%) for a period of 10 years and on the recommendation of the medical board, pension sanctioning authority stopped disability pension from 1993 to 2003. The next RSMB could not be carried out as the applicant did not report to the medical authority till 2008 despite repeated reminder by Records. His disability was assessed at 20% for life and accordingly, he was in receipt of the disability pension from 2008.

The applicant argues that based on the facts mentioned above, he is entitled to disability pension for the period from 1993 to 2008 also and thus, the action of the respondents stopping the disability pension of the applicant from the said dates is against the principles of natural justice.

The respondents argued that since the disability of the applicant from 1993 was re-assessed as less than 20% for 10 years by pension sanctioning and adjudicating authority (PCDA), it was stopped. The next RSMB in 2003 of the applicant was not be carried out as he did not report to the medical authority despite repeated reminders. Eventually, when the applicant reported, his disability was assessed at 20% for life and accordingly his pension was rounded off to 50% for life. Hence, the applicant is not entitled to arrears of disability pension for the period from 1993 to 2008 because his disability was less than 20% as per Regulation 173 of Pension Regulations for the Army 1961 (Part-I) and secondly for not taking any initiative to appeal, represent or appear for 2003 RSMB.

The applicant approached the Tribunal in 2017 by filing an application for grant of disability pension from 1993 to 2008. The Tribunal relied on Shiv Dass v. Union of India, (2007) 9 SCC 274 where the Supreme Court held that arrears of disability pension are restricted to three years prior to the filing of the application if the same has been filed belatedly and delay is condoned. Since the applicant approached the Tribunal after elapse of more than 11 years, he is not entitled to any arrears due to the law of limitations.[M Radha Raman Shukla v. Union of India, 2019 SCC OnLine AFT 3893, decided on 15-07-2019]

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