Indian Military Veterans
1. I see many mails and WhatsApp chats from veterans about recent circular of Min of Fin, Dept of Revenue, CBDT dated 24 Jun 2019. I can appreciate the anguish of the disabled soldiers super annuated who will henceforth not be eligible to get Income Tax exemption. Many have blamed Lt Gen Chopra, former DGAFMS whose DO letter of 2014 to Defence Secretary might have led to the abolition of income tax exemption to the disabled soldiers who are superannuated. I have also seen a number of TV debates on this issue.
2. The Pension Regulations 1961 and 2008 are very clear about the term Invalided. Even those who superannuate with disability attributed or aggravated by military service are deemed to have been invalided. Therefore, our apprehension that such super annuated soldiers will not get IT exemption may be misplaced.
3. Disabled soldiers lose out on important courses and also they do not get promoted as they are LMC. They do not get any benefit while in service due to their disability. The only benefit they get is once they retire they get disability element and exemption of IT. We know the stress levels of working in Armed Forces in senior ranks is very high. There are many instances when senior officers have died prematurely due to such unbearable stress of achieving the targets set for them. Therefore, to say disability affects only junior or middle ranked personnel is not borne by facts.
4. I am not a disabled soldier. My income tax for the year 2018 – 19 is Rs 1,20,000 like most of you. Yet, I strongly advocate that disabled soldiers need to be compensated in their retired life.
5. I have also seen different take from Col AK Ram Singh on disability and on the DO letter of former DGAFMS. I congratulate him for taking a different stand. I read the ibid letter of former DGAFMS. He simply says a fact which we are loathe to accept. He mentioned that recently the trend of Maj Gens and Lt Gens just to get IT exemption on the verge of their retirement get themselves declared as disabled by coercing the medical officers who work under them.
6. Let me put across few cases. There is no doubt that the trend to get disability is not restricted to Maj Gens and Lt Gens but has also gone to former Service Chiefs too. This former COAS is from Regt of Artillery. He goes on official tour to USA in January where he witnesses the firing practice of medium guns. He comes back and reports that he became deaf due to the sound of American medium guns and gets himself disability element three months before his retirement.. Needless to say he is also a beneficiary of Adharsh scam of houses in Mumbai meant for war widows.
7. You also know many officers hide their disabilities to get promotion. A former Army Cdr knew that he is going to be next COAS as he is the senior most. At that time the appointment of COAS was based on seniority based on the date one has become an Army Cdr. He was getting treated quietly for his heart ailment so that he becomes COAS in due course. After assuming the coveted appointment of COAS within six months in Army House, Delhi, he dies in IAF Golf course on Race course road, New Delhi.
8. A Bengal Sapper was having heart problem but got selected for staff course in DSSC, Wellington sometime in 1982 or 83. He was quietly getting himself treated for heart ailment so that he goes to Wellington. The lure of Instructor grading is so high that he was playing squash with an instructor in DSSC. On one evening he collapsed in the Squash Court and was evacuated to MH, Wellington where he was declared as Brought Dead. His wife was in the family way with their second child. The desire to get instructor grading in DSSC course cost him his life. He was just 34 years old.
9. I know the case of an ASC Officer in 502 ASC Bn when I was serving in my unit in 2 Mtn Div in 1983 – 85. He was having heart problem. But his No 4 Selection Board results came and he was declared as fit to become Lt Col. But he was already LMC. He went to MH Jorhat, pleaded with medical specialist to make him SHAPE – 1. The medical specialist felt what will he lose if he clears him. His papers were cleared and he was declared SHAPE – 1. He was happy now that he is SHAPE -1, he will become a Lt Col soon and command an ASC Bn. When the driver came to pick him up in the morning next day in Sub Area Officers’ Mess, he found the officer was lying on the floor in the bathroom. When evacuated to MH Jorhat, he was declared brought dead. He was SHAPE-1 for just less than 24 hrs. The lure of promotion cost his life. He was not even 42 years old when he died.
10. You may know many cases than what I listed here. Therefore, the accusation that senior officers of the rank of Maj Gens and Lt Gens become disabled just before retirement as made out by former DGAFMS is not false in my view.
11. I also know many officers who decide to forgo their promotions when they are disabled. They believe it is better to be a living Major than a dead Maj Gen.
12. But the judgment of Hon’ble Supreme Court of 2013 is very clear on this subject. If you are found fit at the time of enrolment or commissioning and then become disabled in the service it is to be treated as disability attributed or aggravated by military service. Therefore, the courts of law will throw out the circular of Min of Fin dated 24 Jun 2019 through the nearest window. Therefore, disabled and super annuated soldiers need not worry on this account.
Brig CS Vidyasagar (Rtd
Go to Source