A long battle is won for pension parity

OROP explained

ONE rank one pension implies equal pension for having served in the same rank and having rendered the same length of service. At present, the pension of armed forces personnel who have retired at different times is different even though they are similarly placed as far as rank and length of service goes. This is because after implementation of a new pay commission, the revised pension is fixed at the bottom of the new pay scale corresponding to a particular rank or grade. While those in service get annual increments and hence their pension, which is 50 per cent of the last drawn pay, increases, the pension of prior retirees remains fixed at the bottom of the scale. An officer, for example, who retired prior to 2006, when the Sixth Pay Commission was implemented, was getting lower pension that a colonel who retired after 2006 as he had the benefit of additional increments.

Judiciary on pension

A Supreme Court ruling from 1983 states, “Pension is not a bounty nor a matter of grace depending upon the sweet will of the employer. It is not an ex-gratia payment, but a payment for past services rendered.”

The Chandigarh Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal, then headed by Justice Ghanshyam Prashad, had in 2010 ruled that the state cannot lay down different criteria for grant of pension for the same rank on the basis of cut-off date of retirement. Stating that all pensioners irrespective of rank were entitled the same pension, the bench had ruled that grant of unequal pay in the same rank violated Article 14 (Equality before law) of the Constitution.
Parliamentary panel’s stance

Parliament’s Standing Committee on Defence had, in its report submitted in December 2001, observed that OROP had been in vogue till 1973, when the Third Pay Commission had taken an ex-parte decision to do away with this concept. While affirming the tough service conditions, high risk to life and disturbed family life in the armed forces, the report stated that if the concept of OROP had been working satisfactorily for 26 years after independence, that what was the harm in continuing with the concept now.

Excerpts from budget speech

There is still a small gap in pensions in the ranks of Sepoy and Naik and a gap in the ranks of Major and above. We also need to take care of those who served in the defence forces only for a limited number of years. Government has therefore decided to walk the last mile and close the gap for all retirees in all ranks and has accepted the principle of One Rank One Pension for the defence forces. This decision will be implemented prospectively from the financial year 2014-15. The requirement for 2014-15 is estimated at Rs 500 crore and the sum will be transfered to the Defence Pension Account in the current financial year itself.

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