AFT | For calculating disability pension, ‘Alcohol Dependence Syndrome’ can neither be attributable to nor aggravated by military service

Armed Force Tribunal (AFT): A Division Bench of Justice Virender Singh (Chairperson) and Air Marshal B.B.P Sinha (Member) dismissed an application by the applicant under Section 14 of the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007.

The applicant was enrolled in Army in 2003 as a Signalman and was invalided out from service in 2012 in low Medical Category under Rule 13(3) III (iii) of the Army Rules, 1954. At the time of invalidment from service, the Invaliding Medical Board (IMB) assessed his disability ‘Alcohol Dependence Syndrome’ at 1-5% for life and opined the disability to be neither attributable to nor aggravated (NANA) by service and not connected with service due to habitual disorder. The applicant approached the respondents for grant of disability pension but it was rejected.

The following were the two issues before the Tribunal:

  1. Whether the disability of the applicant i.e. ‘Alcohol Dependence Syndrome’ could be attributable to or aggravated by military service?
  2. Whether the disability percentage has been decided correctly?

The Tribunal held that alcohol dependence syndrome is primarily a disease where an individual cannot control his excessive drinking habits. The disease leads to being drunk while on duty and poor performance during discharge of official duties. “It is also very clear that drinking Alcohol and exercise of discipline and moderation while drinking is a matter of personal choice”. They further held that the military doctors and the organization make all the efforts to help a soldier who becomes a victim of ‘Alcohol Dependence Syndrome’ and only when all efforts fail the soldier is invalided out on the same ground. As far as attributability of the disability, it was neither attributable to nor aggravated by military service.

While calculating the disability percentage, the Tribunal relied on the Supreme Court’s Judgment in Sukhwinder Singh v. Union of India, (2014) STPL (WEB) 468 SC where they held that any disability not recorded at the time of recruitment must be presumed to have been caused to be a consequence of military service. The benefit of doubt must be in favour of the member of the Armed Forces. Wherever a member of the Armed Forces is invalided out of service, it perforce has to be assumed that their disability was found to be above twenty per cent.

Considering all issues, the Tribunal agreed with the opinion of IMB that the disease of the applicant was neither attributable to nor aggravated by military service and decided to not interfere with this process or provide any other relief to the applicant.[Kailash Joshi v. Union of India, 2019 SCC OnLine AFT 4366, decided on 16-08-2019]

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