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Contradicting Medical Board reports led to non-payment of Disability Pension to disabled ex-serviceman – Armed Forces Tribunal orders for payment of 50% Disability pension nearly after three decades
The opinion of medical board should be given primary credence and the authority of Principal Controller of Defence Accounts (PCDA) (Pensions) for awarding disability pension is very limited, said the Chennai bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal, granting an ex-serviceman 50% disability pension around three decades after he was discharged from service on medical grounds.
In 1983, M Natarajan joined the Madras Engineer Group as a sepoy. While undergoing basic training at the regimental centre, he met with an accident and his right little finger was crushed.
In 1985, he was invalided from service. The medical board said the injury was permanent. It granted him 20% disability pension for two years.
In 1987, the review medical board said his condition was “static and likely to be permanent” and recommended to continue the pension. However, the Army did not pay him pension. After an appeal, he was reassessed by a medical board in 1994 which said there was no change in Natrajan’s condition since the last review.
However, while assessing his disability, the board fixed his disability as below 20% for 10 years. The Principal Controller of Defence Accounts (PCDA) (P), Allahabad rejected his plea. He then moved AFT in 2010.
In its counter, the Army said during hospitalization, he was “tenaciously adamant for not doing physiotherapy exercises” which aggravated his injury leading to his discharge. Further, the PCDA (P), being the competent medical authority, said his disability was less than 20%. As such, he was not provided pension.
His subsequent appeals too were dismissed. It said his case was “barred by limitation” as he had approached the tribunal with an “insurmountable delay” (of 5,679 days).
Natarajan said the delay was “neither wilful nor wanton” and he could not file the application because of “want of money.” If the delay was not condoned, he would continue to suffer, he said.
The bench comprising judicial member V Periya Karuppiah and administrative member K Surendra Nath said the injury might have been exacerbated because Natarajan was unable to understand the physiotherapy instruction as he was not conversant with either Hindi or English. It also noted despite the recommendation of the medical board, the Principal Controller of Defence Accounts (Pensions) reduced the disability as below 20% in 1987. “No reasons were adduced for lowering the disability,” it said.
Finding contradictions in the second medical board’s opinion, the bench said, “We are inclined to question the opinion of the medical board and feel it erred on both counts.”
It then allowed Natarajan disability pension for life which, according to the provisions of the central government, was rounded from 20% to 50%. However, the arrears had to be paid only for three years before he approached the tribunal.
Source : Times of India