Union of India &
ANR. Vs. Talwinder Singh
[Civil Appeal No.
3686 of 2012 arising out of SLP (C) No. 6629 of 2011]
O R D E R
granted. The present appeal has been filed against the judgment and order dated
11.11.2009 passed by the High Court of Punjab & Haryana at Chandigarh in
RSA No.599 of 2009 by which the High Court has reversed the judgment and order
of the Trial Court as well as the First Appellate Court and granted the relief
of disability pension to the respondent.
and circumstances giving rise to this appeal are that the respondent was
enrolled in the Infantry (Sikh Regiment) on 23.5.1987. He proceeded on annual
leave on 31.3.1990 for a period of two months to his home town. During his leave
period, the respondent suffered injuries being hit by a small wooden piece “Gulli”
in the play of children and thus, his left eye was seriously damaged. He was
admitted to Command Hospital, Chandimandir and remained there from 1.4.1990 to 25.4.1990.
The respondent was operated upon twice and, subsequently, was discharged giving
him sick leave from 26.4.1990 to 6.6.1990 and was placed in low medical
category ‘BEE’ (permanent).
investigation/enquiry was conducted by Army Authorities and the court of
inquiry vide order dated 13.7.1990 came to the conclusion that injuries
sustained by the respondent were not attributable to military service. The
respondent was kept in sheltered appointment upto 31.5.2003 for giving him an
opportunity to complete his terms of engagement. The respondent was examined by
the Release Medical Board (RMB) on 14.2.2003 for assessment of degree and attributability/aggravation
factors of the disability ‘Perforating Injury Left Eye’ and it came to the
conclusion that disability was 30% for life, however, the Board further
declared that the said disability was neither attributable to nor aggravated by
military service. In view thereof, the claim of the respondent for disability pension
was rejected by the competent authority vide order dated 7.8.2003.
respondent filed Suit No.312 of 2004 before Civil Judge (Senior Division)
Sangrur, Punjab, seeking the relief of disability pension which was dismissed
vide judgment and decree dated 25.9.2006. Aggrieved, respondent preferred Civil
Appeal No.150 of 2006 which was dismissed by the learned Additional District Judge,
Sangrur vide judgment and decree dated 2.9.2008. Respondent, not being satisfied,
preferred RSA No.599 of 2009 before the High Court of Punjab & Haryana challenging
the aforesaid judgments and decree. Learned Single Judge reversed the
concurrent finding of facts by two courts below and allowed the appeal decreeing
the suit issuing direction to the appellants/ defendants to release payment of disability
pension alongwith 8% interest per annum from 31.5.2003, within a period of 3 months.
Hence, this appeal.
H.P. Raval, learned ASG appearing on behalf of Union of India, has submitted
that the High Court committed an error allowing the appeal and reversing the
judgments and decree of the courts below as the case of the respondent could
not fall within the provisions of paragraph 179 of the Pension Regulations of the
Army, 1961, Part-I, (herein after called the `Regulations’) as well as the findings
and opinion of the Medical Board, a finding that the injury suffered by the respondent
could neither be attributable to, nor could be aggravated by the military
service. Therefore, the appeal deserves to be allowed. The judgment and decree
of the High Court is liable to be set aside.
the contrary, Shri Vivek Gupta, learned counsel appearing for the respondent,
has contended that the High Court has decided the case in correct perspective
and correctly interpreted the statutory provisions and therefore, no interference
is required. The appeal lacks merit and is liable to be dismissed.
have considered the rival submissions made by learned counsel for the parties
and perused the record. The sole question involved in this appeal is that if a person
enrolled in Army suffers from injury at his home when on leave, whether such
injury can be held to be attributable to or aggravated by the military service.
The issue involved herein is no more res integra. It is not in dispute that in
case the injury suffered by military personnel is attributable to or aggravated
by military service after discharge, he becomes entitled for disability
pension. It is also a settled legal proposition that opinion of the Medical
Board should be given primacy in deciding cases of disability pension and the
court should not grant such pension brushing aside the opinion of the Medical
Board. (See: Union of India & Anr. v. Baljit Singh, (1996) 11 SCC 315; Union
of India & Ors. v. Dhir Singh China, Colonel (Retd.), (2003) 2 SCC 382; Controller
of Defence Accounts (Pension) & Ors. v. S. Balachandran Nair, AIR 2005 SC
4391; Union of India & Ors. v. Keshar Singh, (2007) 12 SCC 675; and Union
of India & Ors. v. Surinder Singh Rathore, (2008) 5 SCC 747).
The Secretary & Curator, Victoria Memorial Hall v. Howrah Ganatantrik
Nagrik Samity & Ors., AIR 2010 SC 1285, this Court while placing reliance
upon a large number of earlier judgments including Constitution Bench judgment
in The University of Mysore v. C.D. Govinda Rao & Anr., AIR 1965 SC 491,
held that ordinarily, the court should not interfere with the order based on
opinion of experts on the subject. It would be safe for the courts to leave the
decision to experts who are more familiar with the problems they face than the
courts generally can be.
Court recently decided an identical case in Union of India & Ors. v. Jujhar
Singh, AIR 2011 SC 2598, and after reconsidering a large number of earlier judgments
including Secretary, Ministry of Defence & Ors. v. A.V. Damodaran (dead)
through L.Rs. & Ors., (2009) 9 SCC 140; Baljit Singh’s (supra); Regional
Director, ESI Corporation & Anr. v. Francis De Costa & Anr., AIR 1997 SC
432, came to the conclusion that in view of Regulation 179, a discharged person
can be granted disability pension only if the disability is attributable to or aggravated
by military service and such a finding has been recorded by Service Medical
Authorities. In case the Medical Authorities records the specific finding to the
effect that disability was neither attributable to nor aggravated by the military
service, the court should not ignore such a finding for the reason that Medical
Board is specialised authority composed of expert medical doctors and it is a final
authority to give opinion regarding attributability and aggravation of the
disability due to the military service and the conditions of service resulting
in the disablement of the individual. A person claiming disability pension must
be able to show a reasonable nexus between the act, omission or commission
resulting in an injury to the person and the normal expected standard of duties
and way of life expected from such person. As the military personnel sustained disability
when he was on an annual leave that too at his home town in a road accident, it
could not be held that the injuries could be attributable to or aggravated by
military service. Such a person would not be entitled to disability pension.
view stands fully fortified by the earlier judgment of this Court in Secretary,
Ministry of Defence & Ors. v. Ajit Singh, (2009) 7 SCC 328.
instant case is squarely covered by the ratio of the aforesaid judgment in
Jujhar Singh (supra). We are of the view that the opinion of the Medical Board which
is an expert body must be given due weight, value and credence. Person claiming
disability pension must establish that the injury suffered by him bears a
causal connection with military service. In the instant case, as the injury suffered
by the respondent could not be attributable to or aggravated by the military service
he is not entitled for disability pension.
view of the above, the appeal is allowed. The judgment and order of the High
Court dated 11.11.2009 passed in R.S.A. No. 499 of 2009 is set aside and the
judgment and order of the Trial Court and that of First Appellate Court are
restored. No order as to costs.
(Dr. B.S. CHAUHAN)
(JAGDISH SINGH KHEHAR)