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Maharashtra govt. must seek out freedom fighters and kin to give pension, not make them file applications: Bombay HC

The court directed the member secretary of the Raigad District Legal Services Authority to go to the residence of the petitioner and assist her in collecting convincing material/documents and evidence. File.   | Photo Credit: VIVEK BENDRE

If the pension scheme for freedom fighters and their dependents was introduced with a desire to help and honour such persons, then it ill behoves the Maharashtra government to reject claims due to lack of documents or late applications, the Bombay High Court has said.

A division bench of Justices Ujjal Bhuyan and Madhav Jamdar said that the State government should reach out to freedom fighters and their dependents and give them the benefits of the scheme, instead of making such people file applications.

The court on Thursday directed the Maharashtra government to start paying pension to the 90-year-old widow of a freedom fighter under the 'Swatantrata Sainik Samman Pension Scheme, 1980' from October 2021.

The order was passed on a plea filed by Shalini Chavan, a resident of Raigad district, who sought that benefits of the scheme be accorded to her, as her late husband Laxman Chavan was a freedom fighter.

The copy of the order was made available on Saturday.

The State government, in its affidavit to the plea, had claimed that the petitioner was ineligible for pension, as she had not submitted the original imprisonment certificate, which was a mandatory document.

The government also stated that the claim for pension had been filed belatedly.

The court, however, noted that there cannot be a rigid time limit for making such applications and said, “The prescription of a rigid time limit for the proof of entitlement in the very nature of things is demeaning.”

“If the scheme for freedom fighters and their family was introduced with a genuine desire to assist and honour those who had given the best part of their life for the country, it ill behoves the government to raise a plea of limitation against such claims,” the bench said.

“In fact, the government should find out the freedom fighters or their dependents and approach them with the pension, instead of requiring them to make applications for pension. That would be the true spirit of working out the scheme, the object of which is to honour the freedom fighters,” the court said.

The bench noted that in cases where original documents are not available, the State government should examine whether it is a genuine case and if documents produced establish that the person had participated in the freedom movement.

“It should be done by applying the principle of probability,” the court said.

The court directed the member secretary of the Raigad District Legal Services Authority to go to the residence of the petitioner and assist her in collecting convincing material/documents and evidence, which could also be an affidavit of neighbours or respectable persons of the locality.

The documents shall then be placed before the state government, which shall apply the principle of probability while analysing the same and pass appropriate orders within two months, the court said.

“In the interim, considering the age of the petitioner and the fact that she has been pursuing her case since 1993, we direct that she shall be paid pension under the Scheme from the month of October 2021, which shall be subject to the outcome of the petition,” the court said.

The bench posted the matter for further hearing on January 6, 2022.

As per the plea, Laxman Chavan had participated in the Quit India Movement in 1942, and was later sentenced and imprisoned at Byculla Jail in Mumbai from April 17, 1944 to October 11, 1944. He died on March 12, 1965.

The petitioner's lawyer Jitendra Pathade told the court that the benefit of the scheme was not extended to Shalini Chavan on the ground that the records of her husband's arrest and imprisonment were not available.

Mr. Pathade argued the petitioner had in 1966 submitted the imprisonment certificate of her late husband to the State government, but it could not verify the same as the old records of the prison seem to have been destroyed or must have perished over the years.

The petitioner in her plea noted that she is a senior citizen without any support, following her son's death and is struggling for her daily needs.

As per the plea, the petitioner had submitted all requisite documents to the government, and in 2002, she had appeared before the freedom fighter high-powered committee of the State government, where she was informed that her pension claim would be sanctioned.

“However, till date, the petitioner has not received any pension and hence, she was left with no remedy than to approach the High Court,” the petition stated.

The petitioner has also sought a direction to the State government to pay her an ex-gratia sum of ₹10 lakh.


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Printable version | Dec 4, 2021 3:22:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/maharashtra-govt-must-seek-out-freedom-fighters-and-kin-to-give-pension-not-make-them-file-applications-bombay-hc/article36914560.ece

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