From the #Archives: Has OROP been implemented?

Supreme Court of India

This article was first published on July 12 this year. Subscribe to Bar & Bench to read our previous articles.

The debate surrounding One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme has come to fore again with the suicide of an ex-serviceman. There is considerable difference in opinion regarding whether the current government has implemented the OROP scheme or not.

A petition filed in Supreme court in July this year by Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement sets out the cause for dissatisfaction among ex-soldiers. Bar & Bench had reported the story on July 12. Below is the complete story.

The Supreme Court issued notice to the Central government in a petitionRam Jeth filed by the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement seeking a declaration that non-implementation of the ‘One rank one pension scheme’ violates Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.

The matter was heard by a Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and C Nagappan. Senior Advocate Ram Jethmalani appeared for the petitioner.

The petitioner is a body of ex-servicemen’s organisations as well as individual military veterans from all three defence forces – Army, Navy and Air Force.

One rank one pension is the uniform payment of pension to ex-servicemen who retire in the same rank with the same length of service irrespective of their date of retirement. It also involves future enhancement in the rates for recent pensioners being passed on to the past pensioners.

In the petition drawn by advocate Arunava Mukherjee and filed through advocate Balaji Srinivasan, the petitioners have given an exhaustive history of OROP. They have claimed that OROP was followed for 26 years after independence but was “unjustly changed” in 1973 on the recommendation of the Third Central Pay Commission.

The petition then goes on to criticise both the UPA government and the current NDA government for denying OROP to ex-servicemen.

According to the petitioner, the UPA government “astronomically enhanced the salary of civil servants” and introduced Non-functional Financial Upgradation scheme for civil servants but the same was not allowed for Defence services.

“… these decisions had the effect of arbitrarily and discriminatorily downgrading the pay-grades, pension, allowances and status of Defence Services”, the petition states.

The petitioner has also trained its gun on the current NDA government.

Under the head “False promises made to ex-servicemen and electoral fraud on voters”, the petition states that,

“During his election campaign, Mr. Narendra Modi promised that OROP will be implemented. Although, the Hon’ble Defence Minister had worked out a package with an expected outlay of Rs. 8296.40 crores per annum, it is yet to be implemented.”

However, the major grievance of the petitioner is that though the Central government sanctioned OROP, the true meaning of OROP was,

“Illegally twisted by the government to create a perverse definition and murder the spirit of the OROP.”

In a letter written on November 7, 2015, by the Joint Secretary of Department of Ex-servicemen Welfare, to the Chiefs of Army Staff, Naval Staff and Air Staff, the settled and true definition of OROP was “arbitrarily and cunningly altered”.

“It described OROP as uniform payment of pension to retired servicemen retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, regardless of their date of retirement which implies bridging the gap between the rates of pension of current and past pensioners at periodic intervals. It is submitted that the new perverse definition of OROP does not include that any future enhancement in the rates for recent pensioners would be “automatically” passed on to the past pensioners.”

The petitioner has contended that this new definition will lead to a situation where the pension of an ex-serviceman who retired earlier will be less than the pension drawn by an ex-serviceman who retires in 2014 until an annual periodic review is done to correct the anomaly.

Relying on the case of Union of India v. SPS Vains, the petitioner has submitted that this is arbitrary, unconstitutional and violative of Articles 14 and 21. Based on the above, the petitioner has made of slew of prayers including a prayer to quash the letter of November 7, 2015 as unconstitutional.

The Court after hearing the matter issued notice to the Centre, with the matter likely to be listed after eight weeks.