The Supreme Court today came down heavily on the Ministry of Defence over its January 20 communication regarding the payment of arrears of One Rank-One Pension (OROP) in installments to eligible pensioners of the armed forces.

A bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud took exception to the letter issued by the secretary in the ministry and directed him to file a personal affidavit explaining his position.

"You tell the secretary we are going to take action against him for that January 20 communication. Either withdraw it, or we are going to issue a contempt notice to the Ministry of Defense. Sanctity of the judicial process has to be maintained," the bench also comprising Justice PS Narasimha and Justice JB Pardiwala said.

Additional Solicitor General N Venkataraman told the court that the Ministry should be given time to carry out the exercise as per the court's order. The apex court posted the matter after Holi vacation.

On January 9, the apex court had granted time till March 15 to the Centre for payment of total arrears of OROP to all eligible pensioners of the armed forces. Last month, the government has moved the top court seeking extension of time till March 15, 2023, for payment of arrears of OROP scheme to all eligible pensioners of the armed forces.

This is the second extension given by the apex court to the Union government to pay the arrears after it had first moved the top court in June, last year and sought three months to compute and make payments in accordance with the March 16, 2022 verdict of the apex court. The apex court's 2022 verdict came on the plea filed by the Indian Ex-servicemen Movement (IESM) through advocate Balaji Srinivasan against the Centre's formula.

With PTI Inputs