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Posted at: Aug 21, 2016, 1:35 AM; last updated: Aug 21, 2016, 1:35 AM (IST)

AFT raps Centre over frivolous appeals in SC

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 20

In a strong but emotional judgment, the Chandigarh Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has conveyed to the Ministry of Defence and the Army that their frivolous appeals against pension of disabled soldiers are causing great distress to the system and shaking the faith of the common man in the rule of law. 

The AFT, headed by Justice Surinder Singh Thakur, has said that it would recover costs from the officers taking decisions to file such frivolous appeals.

The Tribunal was hearing an application for “leave to appeal” filed by the Army against an AFT decision that had granted a disabled soldier, Yashwant Singh Bharmouria, disability pension based on the applicable rules and Supreme Court decisions. The benefits had earlier been refused to him by the Army. A certificate of leave to appeal certifying that the case involves a question of general public importance is mandatory before an appeal can be filed in the SC.

The Tribunal held that the issue stands well settled by at least nine full-fledged judgments of the SC, including a three-judge Bench decision and yet appeals were being filed against disabled soldiers. The Tribunal also rejected the contention that the Army’s medical board is to determine the eligibility for pension, stating that it is the rules which are to determine the eligibility of disability pension and the medical boards are supposed to work within the four corners of the rules.

The AFT has strongly reacted to indiscriminate appeals filed by the MoD in such matters leading to delay in harvesting the fruits of litigation with the “progeny looking at empty coffers of their parents”. Recalling an SC decision, the Tribunal has reminded the government that they should become a responsible litigant and not file vexatious appeals.

The Tribunal’s order also held that such frivolous litigation leads to wastage of public time and injury to the disabled soldiers, which cannot be compensated in terms of money. “The dockets of the court are rising at the cost of the pockets of poor litigants and it becomes unbearable for them to approach the highest court of the land to defend such frivolous appeals and it causes untold miseries to them,” the Tribunal observed.

The AFT has concluded that it would not shy away from imposing exemplary costs recoverable from the pockets of officers who file such frivolous applications and review petitions without merit or due application of mind on issues already settled by the SC. 

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