Chandigarh, June 6
The Armed Forces Tribunal has held that the service pension of an ex-servicemen who has been released from jail after serving his confinement period cannot be withheld by the authorities.
An Honorary Naib Subedar, who was discharged from the Army in 2005 after completion of his terms of engagement, was subsequently convicted in a criminal case and awarded life imprisonment in 2006. Consequently, his pension was stopped by the bank in 2009.
He was released from jail in 2022 after being incarcerated for 15 years and nine months and thereafter sought restoration of his pension in accordance with provisions of the Pension Regulations for the Army.
Relying on an earlier judgement of the Tribunal’s Chandigarh Bench, the Bench of Justice Ravindra Nath Kakkar and Maj Gen Sanjay Singh ruled that if a person is released on any ground, whether on bail of after due acquittal in a criminal case, his pension should be restored.
The authorities had, on the other hand, argued that there is no provisionto restore service pension for convicted personnel and Regulations state that the pension of a convicted person would be suspended from the date of imprisonment.
The Chandigarh Bench had earlier ruled that a conjoint reading of the relevant paras of the Regulations makes it abundantly clear that the pension during the period of imprisonment will not be payable. However, the pension may be restored after the release of the pensioner from custody.
“The word used in the Regulation is ‘release’ and not ‘Acquittal’. These are two entirely different words having different meanings. One cannot be equated with other. If the word ‘release’ is equated with the word ‘acquittal’ then it would mean that if the hearing in the appeal does not take place for 20 years, the petitioner will not get the pension for 20 years till his acquittal. That cannot be the intention of the framers of the Regulations,” the Chandigarh Bench had said while pointing out that the word ‘release’ has been consciously used in the Regulations.
In the instant case, the Bench also observed that the action of the authorities to stop pension of the pension of the Naib Subedar without serving any show cause notice or without providing him an opportunity of hearing is against the principle of natural justice.
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