Nearly 24 years after disappearance of her son

Nearly 24 years after the disappearance of her younger son, who was serving the Army, a woman in Tiruvannamalai has got relief, with the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), Regional Bench, Chennai, ordering that she is entitled to family pension from the date on which her son went missing.

Justice A.C. Arumugaperumal Adityan (Member-Judicial) and Lt.Gen (Retd) S. Pattabhiraman (Member-Administrative), AFT, passed the order on an application by Poongol of Pavithram village.

The Bench deprecated the attitude of Army authorities, who, without giving any explanation for the personnel's absence from the unit, “coolly say that he is a deserter,” that too without following procedures contemplated under Army rules.

The applicant's son M. Raman, after successful training, was sent for advance technical training from June 1986 to January 1987. Thereafter, he was posted to the Eastern Command Signal Regiment, Kolkata.

No information was received from him thereafter.

Ms. Poongol waited for the enquiry result from the local police regarding her son's disappearance. As there was no reply from the local police, she approached the tribunal seeking family pension and other consequential reliefs.

The Army authorities in their counter stated that after being posted, Raman was absent without leave from March 12, 1987 and not missing. An apprehension order was issued by the unit to the local police and to his hometown police station in March 1987. All searches for him were in vain. After an enquiry, he was declared a deserter.

He was dismissed in 1990. Since the individual had been dismissed, he was not entitled for pension and gratuity.

Allowing the application, the Bench observed that the apprehension order dated March 19, 1987 was sent to the Superintendent of Police, North Arcot. The authorities had not followed the law before dismissing the individual. The Bench said that once an individual joined the Army, till his retirement or dismissal or discharge from service the authorities were responsible for his life and security. In this case, the authorities were not able to say as to what happened to Raman.

It said the applicant was entitled to family pension as per rules after following the mandatory procedures as per a Union Government letter of June 1998.