The Supreme Court today said the Ministry of Defence cannot take law in its own hands by issuing communication on payment of One Rank-One Pension (OROP) arrears in four installments.

A bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice PS Narasimha and Justice JB Pardiwala asked the ministry to immediately withdraw its January 20 communication, which said OROP arrears will be paid in four installments.

Attorney General R Venkataramani said the Centre has paid one installment of OROP arrears to ex-servicemen but need some more time for further payments.

"First withdraw (your) January 20 notification on payment of OROP arrears, then we will consider your application for time," the bench told Venkataramani.

The bench said the defence ministry's January 20 communication was completely contrary to its verdict and it cannot unilaterally say it will pay OROP arrears in four installments. It asked the attorney general to prepare a note giving details of the quantum of payment to be paid, the modalities to be adopted and what's the priority segment for the payment of arrears.

"We want that there has to be some kind of categorisation and older people should be paid the arrears first. Over four lakh pensioners have died since the litigation started," the bench said.

The apex court is hearing an application filed by Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM), through advocate Balaji Srinivasan, in which they have sought setting aside of the defence ministry's January 20 communication.

On February 27, the apex court pulled up the defence ministry over the delay in payment of OROP arrears to eligible pensioners of the armed forces and sought an explanation from the secretary concerned for issuing the communication extending the timeline for payments fixed by the court.

On January 9, the apex court granted time till March 15 to the Centre for payment of total arrears of OROP. But on January 20, the ministry issued a communication that the arrears shall be paid in four yearly installments.

With PTI Inputs