The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the One Rank, One Pension (OROP) scheme of the Centre.
The bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Surya Kant and Vikram Nath held that it they would not accept the challenge made by the association “Indian Ex-Service Movement “ against the 2015 notification issued by the Central government.
“We find no constitutional infirmity in the OROP principle as defined in the government’s communication of November 7, 2015 on the implementation of the pension.”
The plea was by the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM) through advocate Balaji Srinivasan against the One Rank, One Pension scheme.
The plea contended that, “when you revise after five years, the arrears of five years are not taken into account. The hardships of ex-servicemen can be obviated to a certain extent if the period is reduced from five years to a lesser period.”
Senior Advocate Huzefa Ahmadi and Srinivasan, appearing for IESM told the court that it has to keep in mind that it should keep in mind the soldiers, who fought man to man unlike soldiers of today’s time, who have sophisticated arms.
“It is the older soldiers who need the OROP the most. If we accept the submission of the Centre, it will be like allowing the illegality to continue, which the court wants to root it out.”
The bench while delivering the judgment said that there is no legal mandate that petitioners who hold the same rank must be given the same pension.
“All pensioners who hold the same rank may not form a homogeneous class. Also a new pensioners benefit can be made applicable from a prospective date, with the only condition that it cannot split up a homogeneous class”.
The plea filed by the Ex-servicemen sought annual revision of pension under OROP. As per the 2015 notification, the periodic review of pension was fixed at five years and the pension was fixed based upon the salaries of the year 2013 by the central government.
The plea stated that, different pensions for same rank rank is being implemented depending on when the person retires.
The court held that the OROP policy of the center cannot be considered arbitrary.
“We accordingly direct that a refixation exercise must be conducted by the government for a period of 5 years with regard to pension payable to Army Personnel as stated in the OROP policy in accordance with the November 7, 2015 notification. Refixation exercise to be carried out from July 1, 2019 and appears to be paid to army personnel within 3 months.”
The court also refuse to entertain the financial implications of the OROP scheme.
“Since the definition of OROP is not arbitrary, it is not necessary for us to undertake the exercise of determining if the financial implications of the scheme are negligible or enormous”, observed Justice Chandrachud.
The objections to the policy choice of the cut-off date was also ignored by the court.
“The cut-off date is used only for the purpose of determining the base salary for the calculation of pension. For those who retired after 2014, the last drawn salary is used to calculate pension. For those who retired prior to 2013, the average salary drawn in 2013 is used. Since the uniform application of the last drawn salary for the purpose of calculating pension would put the prior retirees at a disadvantage, the Union government has taken a police decision to enhance the base salary for calculating the pension.”