The Centre told the Supreme Court that it has taken a “policy decision” on implementation of One Rank-One Pension (OROP) for ex-servicemen and sought dismissal of pleas seeking automatic annual revision of pension, instead of current policy of periodic review once in five years.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud was told by Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, appearing for the Centre, that the government has taken a “policy decision having financial impact” and this be not reviewed on judicial side.
“We will not revise the OROP formula. The government has already gone out of its way. More than Rs. 10,000 crore has been sanctioned after much deliberation. This has huge ramifications on the exchequer and any interference would further burden us,” the law officer said and sought dismissal of the petitions.
Senior advocate Vivek Tankha, appearing for Indian Ex-servicemen Movement (IESM), said that he was ready to argue on both maintainability and merits of the petition.
“Let the matter be listed for final disposal after four weeks. Pleadings shall be completed from all spectrums by then,” the bench said in its order.
Earlier, the court had sought the response of the Centre on the plea of the ex-servicemen’s body seeking implementation of OROP as recommended by the Koshyari Committee with an automatic annual revision, instead of the current policy of periodic review once in five years.
The IESM and others have challenged the government’s policy of periodic review of pension once in five years, saying such an approach was dilution of the February 26, 2014 announcement by which the revision in pension was to automatically pass on to the past pensioners on an annual basis.
They have contended that five-yearly periodic review did not meet the demand of the ex-servicemen seeking OROP for the service personnel who had retired with same length of service in the same rank.
“OROP is the uniform desire of all three defence services. Ex-servicemen are presently drawing pension that is not consistent with their rank and/or length of service.
In fact, some ex-servicemen are even drawing lesser pension than other ex-servicemen who retired with a subordinate rank or (in the same rank) which is unjust and unconstitutional,” the petition said.
It said that the Centre’s February 3, 2016 letter sent to the chiefs of Army, Navy and Air Force on OROP was “unjust, arbitrary and violative of Article 14 and 21 of the constitution”.
The plea sought a direction to the Centre “that the pension of past pensioners be automatically and contemporaneously enhanced, whenever there is any future increase or enhancement in the rates of pension.”
It further said the government should be directed to fix the pension on the basis of highest pension of financial year 2014-15 and not 2013.
IESM in its petition has referred to the December 19, 2011, report of Rajya Sabha’s Petition Committee then headed by Bhagat Singh Koshyari which rejected all reservation advanced by the government while “strongly recommending” OROP.
In its 142nd report, the Koshyari Committee had said, “the Committee strongly recommends that Government should implement OROP in the defence forces across the board at the earliest”.>