Supreme Court slams government for denying pension to freedom fighter

A view of the Supreme Court of India. File  

The Supreme Court has slammed the Centre for harassing a 90-year-old freedom fighter by filing repeated appeals in higher courts, often at the last minute, to deny him a freedom fighter’s pension.

The government had challenged a Delhi High Court order directing the Centre to pay Dev Narayan Mishra his freedom fighter pension. The High Court attempted to make the government realise that the objective of the pension under the Swatantra Sainik Samman Pension Scheme of 1972 is not to “reward” patriotic men and women who threw their lives into the Freedom Movement, but to honour them and mitigate their suffering.

“The scheme was introduced with the object of providing pension to freedom fighters and families of martyrs,” the High Court had explained to the government in its October 2018 order.

Millions participated in the Freedom Movement without any expectation of reward. Many even refused pension as an affront to their patriotism.

Both the single Judge and Division Bench of the Delhi High Court consistently recognised Mr. Mishra's claim for freedom fighter pension from 2015 onwards.

The government was told to adopt a rational rather than a hyper-technical approach while dealing with freedom fighter pension claims. Partition of the country would have left many freedom fighters helpless about producing documents of their imprisonment in jails now located outside the territory of India, the court observed.

The High Court said the “standard of proof required in such cases (of freedom fighters) is not as required in criminal cases and once on the basis of evidence it is probable that the respondent (Mishra) had suffered imprisonment during freedom struggle, a presumption is required to be drawn in his favour”.

But, instead of granting him pension in compliance of the high court orders, the Supreme Court Bench of Justices S.K. Kaul and K.M. Joseph found the government opted to harass Mr. Mishra, choosing to file an appeal in the apex court after delaying it by 190 days.

Ordering the government to deposit costs of ₹10,000 in the Advocates’ Welfare Fund within two weeks, the apex court dismissed the Centre’s appeal, saying, “We are surprised that such a matter should have been found fit to be filed in this court. It is a sheer waste of judicial time”.

Mr. Mishra's application for pension dates back to March 1982. He had participated in the Freedom Movement and remained underground from August 1942 to 1946. He faced arrest warrants while in hiding and was declared an absconder. His arrest warrant was recalled in 1968. He had produced government records of his struggle along with testimony of another freedom fighter to support his claim for pension.

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Printable version | Jul 30, 2021 1:36:41 AM |

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