The Armed Forces Tribunal should give top priority to disbursing pension benefits to widows of soldiers of the Armed Forces, Justice A.K. Mathur, Chairperson of the Tribunal, said on Sunday.

Illiterate and poor widows of soldiers killed in combat while serving in tough terrains spent several years waiting for their pension, he said and insisted that senior officers had to put their foot down to ensure that justice reached them early.

Justice A.K. Mathur, a former Judge of the Supreme Court, was speaking at a function in St. Thomas Mount, after dedicating the permanent building of the Chennai Regional Bench of Armed Forces Tribunal. He said it was saddening to see the plight of the widows, some of whom waited for as long as 20 years to get their pension benefits due to what he termed as the attitude of the “babudom.”

“Senior officers, Commanding Officers have to put their foot down and sent recommendations and reports to ensure that the widows receive their pension benefits on time instead of toeing the line of the ‘babus',” Justice Mathur remarked. He said brave jawans served at hazardous places like glaciers and other high altitude areas, but when they were killed, the “babus” would pin point errors and detect flaws in reports surrounding their death. This would result in a loss to the soldiers' relatives, who spend several years in the courts waiting for justice.

Cooperation sought

“In a democracy, all jawans have equal rights. Problems and grievances are not restricted only to the jawans, even officers face them,” Justice Mathur said. Stating that the orders and judgements of the Tribunal were without malice, he sought the cooperation of the three Armed Forces to deliver speedy justice to the soldiers and their families.

A press release said Justice Arumuga Perumal Adityan, former Judge, Madras High Court and Lieutenant General (retired) S. Pattabhiraman were Judicial and Administrative Members respectively.

Talking to reporters, Lt. Gen. Pattabhiraman said that in the past one year, nearly 400 cases were disposed by the Chennai Regional Bench. Advocates told reporters that cases, which earlier ran for more than five years, were settled in less than a week at the Tribunal. A.D. Maria Clete, Registrar, also spoke.

Official sources said the Chennai Regional Bench of the Tribunal was started on October 24 last year and was functioning in Teynampet. It moved into the present building, which earlier housed the Military Hospital, after it was renovated at a cost of Rs.1.72 crore. The Chennai Regional Bench would handle all cases of serving and former personnel and also relatives of deceased personnel that are currently in progress at Andhra Pradesh and Madras High Courts and also the Madurai Bench.