The Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) Jammu recently ordered disability pension to an army personnel who got injured while travelling to the railway station to book tickets for returning to a military unit. It was of the view that the accident is connected with the service and can thus be considered an ‘incidence of service’ when assessing an application for the approval of disability pension. The applicant’s bike got imbalanced due to a stray cow while travelling to the station and his left leg was severely injured. The Release Medical Board held the injuries to be neither attributable to nor aggravated by military service and no benefits against the disability pension were extended. It said for getting disability pension, in respect of injury sustained during the course of employment, there must be some casual connection between the disability and Army service, which was missing in applicant’s case.

Bench of Justice Umesh Chandra Srivastava, Member (J) and Lt General Ravendra Pal Singh, Member (A) observed the benefit of doubt in these circumstances should be given to the applicant and the disability of the applicant should be considered as attributable to Army service. “Considering the facts and circumstances of the case, we are of the opinion that this reasoning of Release Medical Board for denying disability element of disability pension to applicant is cryptic, not convincing and doesn’t reflect the complete truth on the matter,” it added.

In his plea through counsel Arjun Bhatia, applicant pleaded that at the time of enrolment, he was found mentally and physically fit for service in the Army and there is no note in the service documents that he was suffering from any disease at the time of enrolment in Army. The disease of the applicant was contracted during the service, hence it is attributable to and aggravated by Military Service. He pleaded that various Benches of Armed Forces Tribunal have granted disability pension in similar cases, as such the applicant be granted disability pension and its rounding off to 50%.

In order to address the controversy, the bench referred to Madan Singh Shekhawat v. Union of India & Ors, (1999) and held that when a armed forces personnel suffers an injury while returning from or going to leave, shall be treated to have causal connection with military service and, for such injury, resulting in disability, the injury would be considered attributable to or aggravated by military service.

While adhering to the principles set by the apex court on the subject in Jagtar Singh v. Union of India & Ors, Decided on November 02, 202, the tribunal observed the fact that applicant was approaching the Railway Station for getting his ticket reserved for travelling back to join his duty, when he met an accident and sustained an injury resulting into disabilities to the extent of 20% for life, establishes causal connection with Army duty.

It thus allowed the application and the impugned order rejecting the applicant’s claim for grant of disability element of disability pension, was set aside. The applicant is entitled to get disability element of disability pension @20% for life which would be rounded off to 50% for life w.e.f. three years preceding the date of filing of Transferred application, the bench concluded. Case Title: Arup Laha Vs Union of India.

Brief Facts

The applicant joined Indian Amy on 26.08.1994. The applicant became Havildar.
After being assigned to 54 Artillery Brigade Headquarters in September 2005, the applicant returned to 141 Field Regiment in April 2006. The applicant received five days of PAL from 21.04.2006 to 25.04.2006 and six days of preparation leave from 26.04.2006 to 01.05.2006. On 24.04.2006, while on leave, the applicant fell while approaching the railway station to reserve his ticket. A stray cow in front of his motorcycle caused him to lose control and fall.

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The applicant’s left leg was seriously wounded in an accident. The applicant was admitted to the nearest Military Hospital in Panagarh. The applicant was discharged from Military Hospital, Panagarh. The petitioner joined the Regiment on 05.05.2006 but reported sick due to an injury and was transferred to Chandimandir Command Hospital. The Medical Specialist advised the applicant of a “ACL TEAR GRADE II (LT)” injury, which was operated on on 22.09.2006 and discharged on 13.12.2006. With effect from 28.07.2006, the applicant quit duty due to the injury.

The applicant was put in low medical category S1H1A3 (T-24) P1E1 because to “(a) ACL TEAR (OPTD) & (6) PCL RTE (LEFT) KNEE” during Medical Board Proceedings. Court of Inquiry procedures were held at 141 Field Regiment on 24.03.2007 by the Commanding Officer to investigate the circumstances of the applicant’s severe injury (ACL TEAR GRADE I) on 24.04.2006 while on leave. After that, the petitioner had periodic re-categorization medical board proceedings

On 25.02.2010, the Release Medical Board (RMB) found the applicant had “AFT (Procodure)es 2068” (Secier) A 75 of 2016 Ex Hav, Arup Laha “ACL TEAR (OPTD)” and “PCL TEAR (LT) KNEE” disabilities, which were not attributable to or aggravated by military service. The percentage of disabilities assessed was 20% for life.

The applicant was released on 01.08.2010 under Army Rules, 1954 Rule 13 (3) Item || (iv) after 15 years, 11 months, and 06 days of service. The respondents did not provide any disability pension benefits to the applicant. The petitioner served a Legal Notice on 21.09.2013 to the respondents, but was unsuccessful in obtaining disability pension. The applicant has chosen the Transferred Application for this reason.

Learned The applicant’s counsel argued that the applicant was mentally and physically fit for Army service at the time of enrolment, as there was no notation of any ailment in the military paperwork. Since the applicant got the ailment during military service, it is attributed to and exacerbated by military service.

He argued that because other Armed Forces Tribunal benches have granted disability compensation in similar circumstances, the petitioner should be granted disability pension and rounded off to 50%.

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