By Pritam Pal Singh
New Delhi: In a ruling that will benefit Short Service Commission (SSC) officers in the armed forces, the Delhi High Court has said that those officers who are forced to leave before completing their tenure due to disability and poor health are eligible for all medical and insurance benefits.
The court was hearing the petition of Sagrika Singh, who joined as an SSC officer in the Indian Army February 2, 1999, and served with the Army Medical Corps. But she was denied medical and insurance benefits on the ground that she had not completed her tenure. Her SSC stint was cut short by kidney failure.
Directing the ministry to provide all benefits to the petitioner, the court, in its 23-page order, said: “Mandamus is issued to the defense ministry to pay the sum assured to the petitioner…and needless to state the petitioner would be entitled to simple interest on the said sum (INR 1 million) at the rate of eight percent per annum reckoned from a date three months after the petitioner raised a demand.”
The division bench consisting of Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Rajiv Shakdher said: “The Army Group Insurance Fund (AGIF) was established with the approval of the government. The main object of the fund is to cater to the socio-economic needs of the army personnel and their families by providing insurance cover.”
The court pointed out that the objective of the AGIF disability scheme was to provide financial benefits to individuals whose service was cut short due to invalidation or release on medical grounds before completion of the terms of engagement or service applicable to that rank.
“The terms of engagement of the petitioner required the petitioner to serve for 14 years subject to fulfillment of the prescribed eligibility conditions. The only reason which resulted in the tenure of engagement being cut short was petitioner’s failure” to be in the required medical condition, said the court in its judgment August 29, made available to IANS September 3.
The petitioner said that after she joined the service she was granted extension by another five years. She became eligible to be considered for further extension in service by another four years, but prior to expiry of the period of five years, it was detected that one kidney of the petitioner was malfunctioning.
In the year 2009 upon examination by a medical board it was opined that the petitioner had a malfunctioning kidney and thus she was placed in permanent low medical category with disability assessed at 100 percent.
Since one condition of grant of extension in service was that the person ought not to be in low medical category, the petitioner was denied extension and released from service.
The bench observed: “Enrolled in the Indian Army as a SSC officer, the initial term of her engagement was of five years and the petitioner had a right to be considered for extension in service, firstly for a term of five years and thereafter for another term of four years. Petitioner’s right was to be considered for extension in service. The army authorities were thus under an obligation to consider the said right of the petitioner.”
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