Breaking: No Constitutional Infirmity In OROP Policy Adopted By Government- Supreme Court
A Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice Surya Kant has disposed of a plea by ex-servicemen association seeking implementation of One Rank-One Pension as recommended by the Bhagat Singh Koshyari Committee with an automatic annual revision, instead of the current policy of periodic review once in five years, by holding that there is no constitutional infirmity in the policy adopted by the government.
"We find no constitutional infirmity in OROP principles adopted", the Bench said while pronouncing the judgment.
The Bench has also held that matters of policy are better decided by elected representatives.
"It involves complex considerations. Increased reliance on judges to solve problems of policy will reduce the importance of other organs of the government", the Bench pronounced.
The Bench has directed that the fixation shall be carried out from 1st July 2019 and that the arrears should be paid within a period of 3 months.
The Bench had reserved its verdict on February 23 asking the Centre whether the hardships of ex-servicemen be obviated to a certain extent if the periodic revision of OROP is reduced from five years to a lesser period.
The plea has been filed by the Indian Ex-servicemen Movement (IESM) through Advocate Balaji Srinivasan against the Centre's formula of OROP.
The Court had said that whatever it will decide, it will be on the conceptual ground and not on figures.
The Centre has said that when the revision takes place after five years, the maximum last drawn pay which has all the factors is taken into account with the lowest in the bracket and it is the golden mean which is being given.
"When we framed the policy, we didn't want anyone post-Independence to be left behind. The equalisation was done. We covered the entire past 60-70 years. Now, to amend it through the court's direction, the implications are not known to us. Anything with finance and economics has to be considered with caution. Period of five years is reasonable and it has financial implications also", the centre had argued.
Senior Advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, appearing for IESM had said that the court has to keep in mind that it relates to older soldiers, who fought man to man unlike soldiers of today's time, who have sophisticated arms.
"It is the older soldiers who need the OROP the most. If we accept the submission of the Centre, it will be like allowing the illegality to continue, which the court wants to root it out", Ahmadi had said.
On February 21, the Centre had said that the statement on in-principle approval of OROP for defence services was made by then Finance Minister P Chidambaram during his interim-budget speech on February 17, 2014, without any recommendation by the then union cabinet.
"Respondent respectfully submits that this statement (of the then Finance Minister dated February 17, 2014) is not based on any decision or recommendation by the then Union Cabinet. On the other hand, the cabinet secretariat conveyed the approval of the Prime Minister in terms of Rules 12 of the Government of India (Transaction of Business Rules) 1961 on November 7, 2015", the affidavit has said.
The clarification was given by the Centre after the top court had asked the government to clarify whether the statement made by the then Finance Minister on February 17, 2014, was based on any decision or recommendation by the Union Cabinet.
On February 16, the Apex Court had said that Centre's hyperbole on the OROP policy presented a much "rosier picture" than what is actually given to the pensioners of the Armed forces.
On July 11, 2016, the Court had issued notice on the plea filed by IEMS through advocate Balaji Srinivasan seeking implementation of OROP as recommended by the Koshyari Committee with an automatic annual revision, instead of the current policy of periodic review once in five years.
With PTI inputs