After Maharashtra Govt Turns A ‘Blind Eye’, Army Hero’s Widow Aakriti Sood Pleads HC For Benefits

After Maharashtra Govt Turns A ‘Blind Eye’, Army Hero’s Widow Aakriti Sood Pleads HC For Benefits

Major Sood laid down his life for the country. State says only those who were ‘born in Maharashtra’ or have ‘lived in the state continuously for 15 years’ are eligible for monetary benefit and allowance

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Sunday, April 14, 2024, 12:18 AM IST
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Late Major Anuj Sood and his wife Aakriti Singh Sood | X

The Maharashtra government has failed to appreciate that due to fortuitous nature, military personnel and their spouses who spend a majority part of their lives being deployed in various states do not get an opportunity to spend or reside for a longer duration of time in one particular state. Hence, second generation children of defence personnel can never meet the criteria of ‘birth’ or ‘continuous residence for a particular number of years in a state’ as since their childhood, they have moved across various states along with their parents.

The contention is raised by Aakriti Sood, widow of late Major Anuj Sood, who after running from pillar to post to get the rightful benefits for ex-servicemen, has approached before the Bombay High Court through her advocate Sneha Bhange.

She approached the high court aggrieved by the “insensitive approach” of the government as her repeated requests have fallen on deaf ears in the past four years.

Major Sood, 30, laid down his life on May 2, 2020, while rescuing civilian hostages from terrorist hideouts in Jammu and Kashmir, and was awarded the Shaurya Chakra posthumously.

Aakriti has sought benefits under two government resolutions (GR) of 2019 and 2020.

However, the state has contended that only those who were “born in Maharashtra” or have “lived in the state continuously for 15 years” were eligible for monetary benefit and allowance.

According to her plea, Aakriti, who is daughter of a former navy serviceman, has a domicile certificate dated November 20, 2003. Her father is also a domicile of Maharashtra.

The late major’s father was also an ex-serviceman and hence his entire childhood was spent in different states where his father was posted. On February 3, 2010, with the intention of making Pune as their permanent home, the late major purchased a residential home there. This is his “only permanent address of martyr Major Anuj Sood, till the time he laid down his life for the nation”, states the plea.

On June 9, 2012, the late major completed his training from Indian Military Academy and since then he was posted at various locations. He also completed his Young Officers Course from Ahmednagar in 2015-16.

The two married on September 29, 2017, and settled in Pune. “The marriage registration certificate also has the address of Pune house,” the plea adds.

Following his death, the commanding officer for the 21 Rashtriya Rifles Battalion, on June 2, 2020, sent a letter to principal secretary and special inquiry officer of the General Administration Department informing about the major’s death, along with all the relevant documents, and requested the authority “to grant ex-gratia relief from the Maharashtra government to next of kin”.

However, on August 20, 2020, the state “outrightly discarded” the late major and his widow’s claim and entitlement to receive the rightful ex-gratia relief citing the reason of “not residing in the state for 15 years”.

The plea points out that Aakriti, who has ancestral roots in Himachal Pradesh, was born in Delhi, due to her father’s transfers. They moved to Pune when she was in Grade 3 after her father retired. It is only after that they got a permanent address at Pune.

Even the late major’s father was posted in Pune on two occasions when they decided to settle down there. Hence, they purchased a house in Pune.

“Instead of feeling proud that Martyr Maj Anuj Sood was a permanent resident of the State of Maharashtra, the respondents are disowning him on the ground that he was not ‘the domicile’ of the State of Maharashtra, having not continuously resided in the State of Maharashtra, for 15 years. Though, inter-alia the Aadhaar and PAN card and such other relevant documents of Martyr Maj Anuj Sood demonstrates his permanent residential address from Pune,” her plea states.

The plea states that after her husband’s death, she received “unwavering sympathy and bountiful condolences”, but no one in the government addressed her real problems and “everyone has turned their blind eye towards the same”. She points out that various letters expressing grief and condolences were all addressed by various dignitaries to their “permanent home in Pune”.

“After her husband has sacrificed his life for the country, she has been left to fight an endless battle of her own. That too for something that she deserves on account of being a "Veerpatni / Veeranari,” her plea adds.

Aakriti had made representations to the prime minister, chief minister and also the former governor, Bhagat Singh Koshyari.

The governor had acknowledged the representations and forwarded the request for “appropriate consideration” to the central as well as the state government. The defence minister, through a letter dated November 11, 2022, assured the then governor that “the matter is being looked into”.

The governor also requested the state government on December 7, 2022, that since the late major sacrificed his life and was martyred at a very young age, he could not obtain a domicile certificate. However, the petitioner is the domicile of Maharashtra and, therefore, her request may be considered treating this as a special case.

Justice For Aakriti Singh Sood

Major Anuj Sood was martyred when terrorists gunned him down while  he was trying to rescue civilian hostages in Kashmir on May 2, 2020. He was just 30 then.  In recognition of his extraordinary bravery the Shourya Chakra was posthumously conferred on him by the President of India. Even though his wife, Akriti Singh Sood, is entitled to certain benefits from the Maharashtra government it has been refusing to grant the same on the ground that he was not domiciled in the state having not continuously resided for 15 years. The fact is that he was a permanent resident of Pune and his Aadhar, PAN and other vital documents prove that he was very much a son of Maharashtra. 

For the past four years, Akriti has been running from pillar to post seeking the benefits, but in vain. She has finally moved the Bombay high court which asked the government to grant the benefits as a special case. Even then the government is dragging its feet.

The Free Press Journal (FPJ) has started a campaign called ``Justice for Aakriti Singh Sood" . We appeal to all readers to write to chief minister Eknath Shinde requesting him to consider the suggestion of the high court and  grant the prayers of the widow of a martyr who laid down his life for the whole of India, including Maharashtra. Please send your mail to cm@maharashtra.gov.in with a copy marked to fpjreaderreporter@gmail.com

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