Mumbai: In a relief for the 90-year-old widow, the Bombay High Court has directed the government to start paying pension to her under the ‘Swatantrata Sainik Sanman Pension Scheme, 1980' from the current month itself observing that a “rigid time-limit for the proof of entitlement in the very nature of things is demeaning”.
A division bench of justices Ujjal Bhuyan and Madhav Jamdar observed: “In the interim, considering the age of the Petitioner and the fact that she has been pursuing her case since 1993, we direct that she shall be paid pension under the aforesaid scheme from the month of October 2021 which shall be subject to outcome of the writ petition.”
The HC was hearing a petition by Raigad resident Shalini Chavan through her advocates Jitendra Pathade and Shrikant Radkar, seeking benefits of the scheme to be accorded to her as her late husband was a freedom fighter.
In order to help Chavan prove her eligibility, the HC has also directed the Member Secretary of District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) to provide requisite number of legal aid Counsel/Para-legal volunteer and assist her (Chavan) in collecting convincing material/documents/evidence which may be affidavit of neighbours or respectable persons of the locality.
The DLSA has been then directed to forward the relevant documents to the state government.
The judges expressed displeasure by the stand taken by the state government that Chavan was ineligible for receiving pension since she had failed to submit original imprisonment certificate.
Affidavit filed by the government said that it was mandatory to submit the original imprisonment certificate before the authority for grant of pension as per Government Resolution dated July 4, 1995.
Besides, one of the conditions is that the application seeking pension had to be filed before the prescribed date.
“If the scheme has been introduced with the genuine desire to assist and honour those who had given the best part of their life for the country, it ill-behoves the Government to raise pleas of limitation against such claims,” said HC.
The judges even observed that the government should “find out the freedom fighters or their dependents” and approach them with the pension instead of requiring them to make applications for pension. “That would be the true spirit of working out the scheme, the object of which is to honour the freedom fighters,” added the HC.
Citing a Supreme Court judgment, the HC observed that it was “unreasonable” to expect that freedom fighters and their dependents would be readily in possession of required documents.
Such documents have to be secured either from the jail records or from persons who have been named in the scheme to certify the eligibility. Thus the claimants have to rely upon third parties. “What is necessary in matters of such claims is to ascertain the factum of eligibility. The point of time when it is ascertained is unimportant,” added HC.
Hence it was important that the benefit was extended from the time when the application was made. “The prescription of a rigid time-limit for the proof of entitlement in the very nature of things is demeaning. Therefore, the Supreme Court held that benefit should flow from the date of the application and not from any other date,” added HC.