The recent times have been tragic. And as if the loss of life of our personnel and the impact on their families was not enough, many myths are being circulated on social media regarding the entitlements of those who fell in operational areas.
I shall attempt to clear some of them.
Entitlements of Families of Central Armed Police Forces
In the aftermath of the dastardly attack on the troopers of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in Pulwama, it was stated and circulated on social media, that families of personnel of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) are not entitled to any pension after the year 2004. This is grossly incorrect.
The truth is that, members of all civil government services, including CAPFs, who have joined employment after 2004, are now on a Contributory Pension Scheme under the National Pension System (NPS).
However, in case of death or disability in service, they are granted proper casualty pensionary benefits under the Central Civil Services (Extraordinary Pension Rules), 1939, as amended from time to time, which are broadly similar to the ones applicable to the defence services.
Families of Pulwama Martyrs Entitled to Liberalised Family Pension
Hence, the families of the fallen troopers in Pulwama would be entitled to proper Liberalised Family Pension (also known as “Category E” Pension under the Extraordinary Pension Rules) which is equal to the last drawn emoluments of the trooper who became a casualty.
Of course, in addition, the family is also entitled to the Group Insurance Benefits as per the applicable policy of the Force and an ex-gratia compensation that is paid by the central government, which currently stands at rupees 35 lakhs for terrorist attacks, and is again at par with the defence services.
An ex-gratia compensation is also paid by most states, but the same greatly varies from state to state, being a state subject, and which was recently commented upon by MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who had urged various state governments to universalise the amount to avoid any discrimination in this regard.
Entitlement in Operational Areas (But Not in Direct Action)
Questions were also raised by many as to the non-availability of adequate compensation to casualties in the recent helicopter crash in Budgam in Jammu & Kashmir. This also is a myth.
Any casualty occurring in an operational area or in circumstances related to an operation, qualifies for pensionary benefits at par with those in actual action.
The area where the crash occurred is notified as “Operation Rakshak” and hence, the families of the deceased personnel are legally entitled to “Liberalised Family Pension” which is calculated at last drawn emoluments in case of death. A higher amount of disability pension called the “War Injury Pension” is admissible in cases of disability in operational areas.
As far as the ex-gratia is concerned, it is paid at Rs 25 lakhs, which is about Rs 10 lakh less than the admissibility in case of death in action, in anti-terror operations.
Indeed, there have been instances wherein the instrumentalities of the government have refused to pay benefits to casualties in operational areas at par with those in actual operations, but the courts have come to the rescue of such families and individuals.
What Delhi HC Said in ‘Maj Arvind Kumar Suhag vs Union of India’
The summing up of the situation by the Delhi High Court in Major Arvind Kumar Suhag Vs Union of India is apt:
“... such a narrow interpretation of what is otherwise a widely phrased condition, is unwarranted. This would necessarily imply that those who are on the way– like the petitioner, in an operation-notified area and are intrinsically connected with the success of such operations cannot ever receive war-injury pension even though their aid and assistance is essential and perhaps crucial for its success. The classification of the residual head, i.e. “operations specially notified by the government from time to time” has to be read along with the broad objective of the policy, i.e. those who imperil themselves, either directly or indirectly– and are in the line of fire during the operations, would be covered if the injuries occur in that area or in the notified area of operation ...”
“...In parting, this Court cannot resist observing that when individuals place their lives on peril in the line of duty, the sacrifices that they are called upon to make cannot ever be lost sight of through a process of abstract rationalisation as appears to have prevailed with the respondents and with the Tribunal. He, like any other personnel, operated under extremely trying circumstances unimaginable to those not acquainted with such situations. The cavalier manner in which his claim for war injury pension was rejected by the respondents, who failed to give any explanation except adopt a textual interpretation of Clauses (C) and (E), is deplorable...”
Let’s Not Add to Distress of Families of Martrys
While no amount of monetary reparation could recompense the loss of families of the fallen, the aim of the above is only to state that circulation of such myths, aided at times by inimical agencies, unnecessarily fuels disaffection and brings gloom to the families already reeling under a tragedy.
Fight for our rights we must, fight for further improvement in payouts in such cases we must, but only based upon truth and correct data.
(The author is a practicing lawyer at the Punjab & Haryana High Court and writes on law, public policy and military related issues. He is the founding President of the Armed Forces Tribunal Bar Association at Chandigarh and also Member of the International Society of Military Law and the Law of War, Brussels. He tweets @SinghNavdeep. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)