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Pay Interest for Withholding Dues of Widow of Shaurya Chakra Awardee: AFT

The Chandigarh bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) Friday ordered the government to pay interest to the widow of a Shaurya Chakra awardee who had been denied her dues by the Principal Controller of Defence Accounts since 2007.

Sukhwinder Kaur’s late husband, Naib Subedar Kulwant Singh, was killed in 2007 in an explosion in ammunition depot located in Counter Insurgency area in the Kashmir Valley under Operation Rakshak. Kulwant lost his life while saving several of his colleagues and his dead body could also not be recovered. He was posthumously decorated with “Shaurya Chakra” by the President of India for displaying conspicuous bravery and was declared a “Battle Casualty”.

When the papers of the widow were sent to the office of Principal Controller of Defence Accounts in Allahabad, an Accounts Officer in the said office refused to release the applicable Liberalized Family Pension to her despite orders of the competent authority on the pretext that the soldier had not died in a ‘terrorist action’ though as per rules all deaths in notified operational areas were eligible for liberalized benefits.

On a petition filed by Sukhwinder, the Chandigarh Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has now put the Government on notice. After The Indian Express reported the case, benefits were quickly released by the accounts branch when Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman personally took cognisance of the situation.

The AFT Bench comprising Justice MS Chauhan (retd) and Lt Gen Munish Sibal (retd) directed the Government to pay the widow an interest of 9 per cent as mandated by the Supreme Court on the delayed dues from the date of entitlement to the date of payment of the same. Advocates dealing with such matters say that there are numerous instances where directions by the competent executive authorities in Defence Ministry, the Army HQ and the Records Offices are not honoured by the Defence Accounts Department.

In 2015, a High Level Committee of Experts constituted by the Defence Minister had observed, “We are at a loss to comprehend why negative energy and multiple reams of papers should be wasted on such issues concerning benefits of soldiers and deceased soldiers, which are minor from the organizational point of view, when there are much more important financial matters worth pondering over. We find it difficult to digest as to how logic itself is being stretched to illogical limits due to an all-pervasive pessimistic environment just to deny benefits to our men and women in uniform.”

Source: Indian Express