Published On: Thu, Mar 2nd, 2023

Madras High Court denies disability pension to Army driver invalidated out of service due to epilepsy

The Madras High Court. File

The Madras High Court. File

The Madras High Court has refused to order payment of a disability pension to an Army driver who was invalidated out of service due to epilepsy. The court said there was no material to doubt the correctness of the medical board’s report that the disability was neither attributable to, nor aggravated by military service.

A Division Bench of Justices V.M. Velumani and R. Hemalatha pointed out that the writ petitioner K. Subbaraj, who died last year pending adjudication of the case and was replaced by his legal heir A. Banumathi, had also challenged only the denial of disability pension and not the findings given by the medical board against him.

The petitioner’s counsel Lieutenant Colonel S. Ganesan had argued that a member of the armed force is presumed to be in sound physical and mental condition at the time of his entry into service, if there was no note or record to the contrary made at the time of such entry. In the present case, the petitioner had entered into service in 1975. He served as a driver (grade II) in the mechanical transport division of the Corps of Signals which provides information and communication technology support to the Indian Army. He was boarded out of the Army in 1982, after rendering 7 years and 229 days of service, due to epilepsy, and was denied a disability pension.

Assailing the denial, the counsel contended that any deterioration in the health of Army personnel must be presumed to be due to military service unless the employer succeeds in proving otherwise. He also argued that a beneficial legal provision for payment of disability pension must be interpreted liberally in favour of the claimant.

However, the judges pointed out that Rule 173 of the Pension Regulations for the Army lay down the conditions for grant of disability pension. The two foremost conditions were that the disability in question must be attributable to military service or should have been aggravated by the service rendered by the person concerned. In the present case, the medical board had given a categorical finding that the petitioner’s disability was not due to either of the two reasons. Further, it was the contention of the employer that epilepsy could not be normally detected during recruitment unless the candidate discloses it voluntarily.

Further, after rejection of his plea for disability pension in 1983, the petitioner had waited for 36 long years before making another representation in 2019. When the second representation too got rejected, he moved the Armed Forces Tribunal. The tribunal too rejected his plea in 2022 and hence the present writ petition was filed.

Therefore, “We do not find any merit in the present writ petition. The order of the fourth respondent (Officer-in-Charge, Records Signals, Jabalpur) dated September 28, 2019 is valid and legal. In view of the same, the order of the Armed Forces Tribunal, Regional Bench, Chennai, dated June 16, 2022 is upheld,” the Bench concluded.

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