RANK PAY: Facing contempt for denying veterans their due, SC orders CAG & top babus to appear ‘in person’


Story as appeared in the Mail Today newspaper on December 16, 2013
Story as appeared in the Mail Today newspaper on December 16, 2013

The on-going fight between retired defence officers and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) over the ‘Rank Pay’ took a new turn with the apex court ordering top bureaucrats, including Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) Shashikant Sharma, to appear before the court in person. The order was issued by the Supreme Court’s Deputy Registrar on November 27, 2013 mandating the top four MoD bureaucrats to come to the court on February 13, 2014.

The appearance pertains to a 49-page contempt petition filed by the Retired Defence Officers Association (RDOA) in the apex court over non-implementation of the court’s order of September 2012.

Explaining the context behind the contempt petition, Group Captain (Retd) KS Bhati who represents RDOA said, “In our contempt petition before the SC, we’ve sought exemplary punishment for what we believe has been deliberate and intentional non-compliance of this court’s order against ex-Defence Secretary and present CAG Shashikant Sharma, RS Gujral, Secretary in Department of Expenditure, Arunava Dutt, then Controller General of Defence Accounts & Priti Mohanty, Adviser Finance in MoD.”

A copy of the two-page order accessed by this correspondent states, “Whereas your attendance is necessary to answer a charge of contempt of this court as alleged in the contempt petition.” It further mentions, “You shall attend the court in person on the above mentioned date and shall continue to attend the court on all days thereafter to which the case against you stands adjourned and until final orders are passed on the charge against you. HEREIN FAIL NOT.”

Reacting to this, former head of Air Force’s training command, Air Marshal (Retd) Sharad Savur who is also a member of the RDOA said, “Every passing day is getting lost without veterans getting their legitimate dues. Regarding the presence of the CAG in court, if a person who is alleged to have committed a contempt is appointed to a constitutional post it shows how poorly screening committees function in India. Our contempt notice was sent when Mr. Sharma was still the Defence Secretary.”

Group Captain Bhati added, “We want that the CAG and other bureaucrats follow the SC’s order. If these people seek exemption from appearing in court we will oppose till, they agree to implement SC’s orders.”

What is the Rank Pay case about?

The case, famously known as the Rank Pay case was initiated by Major AK Dhanapalan when he approached the Kerala High Court in 1998 praying that as per Government of India resolution, ‘rank pay’ was admissible to army officers in addition to their integrated scales. Since this was taking place since 1.1.86 i.e. date of implementation of the fourth pay commission, court allowed him re-fixation of his pay from that day without deducting his pay based on rank pay – a practice which was taking place before. Subsequently, RDOA took up this case on behalf of serving and retired officers against which the MoD lost all appeals and petitions before all courts including SC.

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