One Rank One Pension – Supreme Court Judgement dated 16.03.2022
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION
Writ Petition (Civil) No. 419 of 2016
Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement & Ors.
Union of India & Ors.
J U D G M E N T
Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, J
This judgment has been divided into the following sections to facilitate analysis:
A. Factual Background
B. Submissions of Counsel
C. 1 Concept and genesis of
C. 2. Plea of Discrimination
C.2.2 Financial Implications
C.2.3 Average to Maximum
C.2.4 Periodic revision every five years
A. Factual Background
1 The petition under Article 32 of the Constitution addresses a challenge to the manner in which the “One Rank One Pension”1 policy for ex-servicemen of defence forces has been implemented by the first respondent2 through a letter dated 7 November 2015 issued to the Chiefs of three defence forces. The letter defines OROP as the payment of uniform pension to armed services personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of the date of retirement. OROP, in terms of the letter, aims to bridge the gap between the rate of pension of current and past pensioners at periodic intervals. The petitioners contend that in the course of implementation, the principle of OROP has been replaced by ‘one rank multiple pensions’ for persons with the same length of service. The petitioners contend that the initial definition of OROP was altered by the first respondent and, instead of an automatic revision of the rates of pension, the revision now would take place at periodic intervals. The petitioners submit that the deviation from the principle of automatic revision of rates of pension, where any future enhancement to the rates of pension are automatically passed on to the past pensioners, is arbitrary and unconstitutional under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.
2 The salient facts giving rise to the proceedings need to be stated. The demand for OROP by ex-servicemen of the defence forces was initially examined by Parliament in 2010-11. On 19 December 2011, the Rajya Sabha Committee on Petitions3 presented its 142nd Report on the Petition Praying for Grant of OROP to Armed Forces Personnel4. The Committee recommended the implementation of OROP. The Committee defined OROP as a uniform pension to be paid to armed forces personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement, where any future enhancements in the rates of pension were to be automatically passed on to the past pensioners. The Committee noted that OROP was being implemented till 1973 when the Third Central Pay Commission took a decision to revoke it. The relevant observations/recommendations of the Koshyari Committee are extracted below:
“11.The Committee takes note of the fact that a sum of Rs 1300 crores is the total financial liability for the year 2011-12 in case OROP is implemented fully for all the defence personnel in the country across the board. The Committee is informed that out of this, 1065 crores would go to retirees belonging Post Below Officer Ranks (PBOR) while the Commissioned Officers would be getting the remaining i.e. 235 crores. The Committee feels that 1300 crores is not a very big amount for a country of our size and economy for meeting the long pending demand of the armed forces of the country. The Committee understands that this ·1300 crores is the expenditure for one year which might increase at the rate of 10 percent annually. Even if it is so, the Committee does not consider this amount to be high, keeping in view the objective for which it would be spent. Needless for the Committee to point out here that our defence personnel were getting their pension and family pension on an entirely different criteria before the Third Central Pay Commission came into force. Till the recommendations of the Third Central Pay Commission were implemented for the defence personnel of the country, they were satisfied and happy with dispensation meant for their pension/family pension.
11.4 …the Committee feels that the decision of the Government to bring our defence personnel on the pattern of the civilians with regard to their pay, pension, etc. (from Third Central Pay Commission onwards) is not a considered decision which has caused hardship to the defence personnel and has given birth to their demand for OROP. The Committee understands that before the Third Central Pay Commission, the defence personnel were getting their pay/ pension on the basis of a separate criteria unconnected with the criteria devised for the civilian work force. That criteria acknowledged and covered the concept of OROP which has been given up after the Third Central Pay Commission.
11.5 The Committee is not convinced with the hurdles projected by the Ministry of Defence (D/o Ex-Servicemen Welfare) in implementing of OROP for defence personnel. They have categorized the hurdles into administrative, legal and financial. The financial aspect has already been dealt with by the Committee. So far as the administrative angle is concerned, the Committee is given to understand that all the existing pensioners/ family pensioners are still drawing their pension/family pension based upon the lawfully determined pension/family pension. In that case, revision of their pension/family pension, prospectively, as a one time measure should not pose any administrative hurdle. So far as the legal aspect is concerned, the Committee is not convinced by the argument put forth against the implementation of OROP because the pension/family pension is based upon the service rendered by personnel while in service and comparison of services rendered during two sets of periods does not seem to be of much relevance. If seen from a strict angle, in each set of periods, the army officer performed the duties attached to his post and it may not be proper to infer that the officers who served at a later period performed more compared to the officers of earlier period. On the contrary, facts tilt towards treating past pensioners/family pensioners at par with the more recent ones.”
3 On 17 February 2014, the Finance Minister announced in his Budget Speech that the Union Government had in principle accepted OROP and it would be implemented prospectively from financial year 2014-15. The Finance Minister stated that an amount of Rs 500 crores has been transferred to the Defence Pension Account to meet the budgetary expense. On 26 February 2014, the Defence Minister chaired a meeting to discuss the implementation of OROP. The Defence Secretary, the Secretary to the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare, the Controller General of Defence Accounts5, the three Vice Chiefs of Staff, and senior officers of the Service Headquarters along with the concerned Joint Secretaries attended the meeting. The minutes of the meeting refer to OROP as a uniform pension to be paid to armed forces personnel that are retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of the date of retirement, where any future enhancements in the rates of pension are to be automatically passed on to the past pensioners. The fourth respondent, CGDA, was directed to take necessary steps to give effect to the decision of implementing OROP in consultation with the three defence forces, and the first and second respondents.