“The object of the freedom fighters’ pension scheme is not to reward or compensate the sacrifices made in the freedom struggle. The object is to honour and mitigate the sufferings of those who had given their all for the country in the hour of its need,” said the Supreme Court in a judgement delivered in 1993.
Ironically, N.P. Gurusamy of Madurai was not bestowed with such an honour despite making repeated representations since April 1981 till his death in August 1999. The pleas made by his wife, thereafter, for the family pension also went unheard until recently when the Madras High Court Bench here intervened to help her.
Disposing of a writ petition filed by G. Susila, Justice T.S. Sivagnanam quashed an order passed by the Union Home Secretary on November 9, 2006, denying monthly pension to the petitioner. He remitted the matter back to the Ministry for grant of the pension to the old woman with effect from 1981.
The Judge said that applicants under the Swatantra Sainik Samman Scheme of the Centre were required to submit primary evidence such as an order passed during the British regime detaining a freedom fighter in jail or proclaiming him as an absconder or announcing an award on his head or for his arrest.
If such documents were not available, they could submit a Non Availability of Records Certificate (NARC) from the State or Union Territory concerned along with a Personal Knowledge Certificate (PKC) from a prominent freedom fighter who had proved jail suffering for a minimum of two years before Independence.
In the present case, the petitioner’s husband had submitted an NARC issued by the Chief Judicial Magistrate here. He had also received a PKC from A.M. Lakshmana Naidu who was receiving the freedom fighter’s pension since 1977. The State government too had sent a recommendation report to the Centre in March 1999.
Yet, the Union Home Ministry rejected the request for pension on the ground that Mr. Naidu, who had issued a PKC, had not furnished any records of jail sufferings undergone by him personally. It was also stated that the recommendation of the State government was not binding on the Centre.
Disagreeing with the reasons adduced, the Judge said: “Once the certifier has clearly stated that he is a recipient of the Central Freedom Fighter’s pension and he relies upon an order passed by the Central government, the Centre cannot insist upon an independent certificate to prove his own jail sufferings."
He also said that the State government recommendation could not be ignored by the Centre. “The recommendation is of high evidentiary value… It cannot be ignored while considering the claim, especially when there is no material available with the Centre to disprove such recommendation,” the judge added.