Satara district officials erred in interpreting State govt. GR on benefits to njured army personnel, says court
Mumbai: Forty-seven years after an Indian Army personnel from Satara sustained severe injuries in the 1971 Indo-Pak war, the Bombay High Court on Tuesday directed the State government to allot a plot of land to him. The court also ordered that all benefits due to him, under a Government Resolution (GR) meant for former Army personnel from Maharashtra, be given.
A Bench comprising Justices A.S. Oka and R.I. Chagla also imposed a cost of ₹50,000 on the State government and directed that the amount be paid to the petitioner, Hindurao Jagannath, within a month.
It was unfortunate that a former Army personnel has been a victim of such apathy, and had to run from pillar to post for benefits he was already entitled to, the Bench observed.
Mr. Jagannath, 68, who served as a driver in the 216 Medium regiment, received bullet injuries in the 1971 war. According to his plea, the injuries got aggravated subsequently and resulted in a bone infection. By the time he was discharged from the Army in 1975, the infection had led to permanent disability in one leg.
No govt. response
After leaving the army, Mr. Jagannath wrote several letters to the State and Union governments, seeking benefits promised under the GR issued by the State government on December 30, 1971. The GR provides that all former Army personnel from Maharashtra who sustain injuries during service will be entitled to agricultural and residential plots of land, and other benefits.
However, his letters failed to yield results. In 2008, he wrote again to the State Social Justice Department, which finally forwarded his letter to the Satara District Collector’s office.
The Collectorate and the Zilla Sainik Welfare Officer, however, rejected his request on the ground that there was no proof his injuries were aggravated while in service. District-level authorities also claimed the GR was meant for Army personnel who have been awarded for gallantry.
Finally, Mr. Jagannath approached the Bombay High Court through his counsel, Rajesh Panchal, in 2015.
State’s apathy sad: HC
On Tuesday, the Bench led by Justice Oka observed it was unfortunate and shocking that the State had shown such apathy to a former Army personnel. The Bench said, “It is unfortunate that it took over 10 years just for the petitioner’s letter to be forwarded. There was a complete misreading of the 1971 GR by district officials. They proceeded on a wrong footing that benefits will be available only in cases of gallantry award winners.”
It added, “Also, the stand taken by the Zilla Sainik Welfare Officer is shocking. His approach should have been sympathetic and positive, since he was dealing with an ex-Army officer.” Since Zilla Sainik Welfare Officer had no personal knowledge of Mr. Jagannath’s injuries, he had no business to get into whether or not the same were aggravated while in service. “Therefore, this petition must succeed,” the Bench said, adding the land and other benefits under the GR must be given to Mr. Jagannath within three months. The court cautioned that if its orders were not complied with, it would impose further cost on the State government.
Mr. Jagannath, who had come to the HC with his wife and daughter, said he was “very relieved now”. Incidentally, the 216 Medium Regiment is celebrating its golden jubilee this year, and has invited Mr. Jagannath.