The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the government’s decision on One Rank, One Pension (OROP) and says it finds no constitutional infirmity on the OROP principle and the notification dated November 7, 2015.
The Supreme Court has announced its verdict on a plea by an ex-military association asking for the implementation of the One Rank-One pension as recommended by the Bhagat Singh Koshyari Committee with an automatic annual review, instead of the policy current periodic review once every five years.
He ordered that the ongoing repricing exercise of OROP which has not been done due to the pending case in court after the expiration of five years, be carried out from July 1. 2019 and that the arrears be paid to retirees in three months.
In delivering the operational part of the verdict, Judge Chandrachud said that all retirees who hold the same rank cannot form a homogeneous class taking into account Assured Career Advancement and Modified Assured Career Advancement.
A chamber presided over by Judge DY Chandrachud asked the Center on February 23 whether the hardship of ex-servicemen would be avoided to some extent if the periodic review of the OROP was reduced from five years to a lesser period.
The plea was filed by the Indian Veterans Movement (IESM) through Barrister Balaji Srinivasan against the Centre’s OROP formula.
It said: “When you revise after five years, the five-year arrears are not taken into account. Veterans’ hardship can be avoided to some extent if the period is reduced from five years to a lesser period”.
He said: “When you (the Center) revise after five years, the arrears of five years are not taken into account. Veterans’ hardship can be avoided to some extent if the period is reduced from five years to a lesser period”.
The Center said that when the review takes place after five years, the last maximum salary drawn which has all the factors is taken into account with the lowest in the range and the middle ground is given.
“When we made the policy, we didn’t want anyone after independence to be left behind. The equalization has been made. We’ve covered the entire last 60 to 70 years. Now, to modify it by court instruction, the implications are not known to us. Everything related to finance and economics should be considered with caution. A period of five years is reasonable and also has financial implications,” the government had said.
Lead attorney Huzefa Ahmadi and Srinivasan, appearing for the IESM, said the court should bear in mind that these were older soldiers, who fought man-to-man unlike the soldiers of ‘today who have sophisticated weapons.
“Older soldiers are the ones who need OROP the most. If we accept the Center’s submission, it will be like allowing the illegality to continue, which the court wants to root out,” Ahmadi said.
On February 21, the Center said that the statement on OROP’s approval in principle for defense services was made by then Finance Minister P Chidambaram during his interim budget speech. on February 17, 2014, without any recommendation from the then union cabinet.
“The Respondent respectfully submits that this statement (by the then Minister of Finance dated February 17, 2014) is not based on any decision or recommendation of 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 Trade Rules) 1961 on 7 November 2015,” the affidavit states.
The clarification was given by the Center after the Supreme Court asked the government to clarify whether the statement made by the then Finance Minister on February 17, 2014 was based on a decision or recommendation by the Union Cabinet. .
On February 16, the High Court said the Center’s hyperbole on OROP policy presented a “rosier picture” than what is actually given to retired armed forces.
On July 11, 2016, the High Court had issued an opinion on the plea filed by IEMS through Attorney Balaji Srinivasan requesting the implementation of the OROP as recommended by the Koshyari Committee with a automatic annual review, instead of the current policy of periodic review once every five years. .
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