The Supreme Court today pulled up the Ministry of Defence over its communication regarding the payment of arrears under One Rank One Pension (OROP) in four instalments to eligible pensioners of the armed forces. A bench led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud asked the ministry to get its “house in order” and warned that it would issue a contempt notice if the notification wasn’t withdrawn.
“The orders of the Supreme Court regarding OROP needs to be followed. Why was the decision taken to pay the arrears in instalments despite the court order?” asked the Supreme Court.
The court was hearing a petition by a group of ex-servicemen who were seeking a direction to the Centre that the arrears should be paid in one instalment instead of four. The group of ex-servicemen said that approximately four lakh pensioners have died during the pendency of the petition.
On January 9, 2023, the Supreme Court had asked the Center to pay the arrears to the armed force pensioners by March 15. However, just days later, on January 20, the Defense Secretary issued a notification saying that the department would pay the arrears in four instalments.
The bench has now directed the secretary to file a personal affidavit explaining his position.
The Chief Justice, during the hearing, categorically said that “court proceedings must be fair”. “It is not a war but a rule of law. Get your house in order,” he added.
The Supreme Court has now posted the matter after Holi vacation.
During the January 9 hearing, Attorney General R Venkataramani – the lawyer representing the centre – said that he would “monitor the matter personally and make sure the arrears are paid soon”.
He said the list was at the final screening step and was “with the finance branch of the Ministry of Defence”.
The March 15 extension by the Supreme Court was the second such extension given to the centre to pay the arrears after it had first approached it in June last year and sought three months to compute and make payments in accordance with the March 16, 2022 verdict of the top court.
The verdict had said in terms of the communication dated November 7, 2015, the benefit of OROP was to come into effect from July 1, 2014 and the communication states that “in future, the pension would be re-fixed every five years.”
“Arrears payable to all eligible pensioners of the armed forces shall be computed and paid over accordingly within a period of three months,” the top court had said in its verdict.
OROP is paid to the personnel of the armed forces who retire at the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement.
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