Singh Shekhawat Vs. Union of India & Ors  INSC 276 (17 August 1999)
N.Santosh Hegde SANTOSH HEGDE, J.
appeal arises from the Judgment of the Appellate Bench of the High Court of
Rajasthan at Jodhpur in D.B.Spl.Appeal No.100/98 dated 4th February, 1998 confirming the judgment of the
learned Single Judge of the same High Court in S.B.Civil Writ Petition
No.4004/91 dated 1st
October, 1997. The
appellant had joined the Indian Army as a Sawar (Horse Rider) in the 17th Horse
Unit in September, 1975. He had completed 11 years and six months of service
when he was discharged from the Military Service on medical grounds on 25th of
April, 1987. The cause of his discharge on medical grounds arose from an
accident in which the appellant was involved on 1.10.1994 while alighting from
the train at Didwara Railway Station, consequent to which accident appellant's
right hand was amputated just four inches below from the joint of collar pone.
At the time of the accident, the appellant was travelling from Jodhpur to his home station on authorised
casual leave granted to him.
discharge from service, on the above stated ground, the appellant put forth a
claim for special disability pension payable under the relevant rules which
though recommended by higher authorities was rejected by the Controller of Defence
Accounts (Pension), Allahabad on 4.10.1988 solely on the ground that at the
time of the accident the appellant was not on Military service. The appellant's
representation/appeal for grant of disability pension having been rejected, as
stated above, he approached the learned Single Judge of the High Court by way
of a writ petition.
writ petition came to be dismissed on the ground that the petitioner was not
entitled for this disability pension on the limited ground that at the time of
the accident the he was travelling at his own expenses, therefore, the relevant
rule did not permit the grant of disability pension. The appellant's appeal to
the Division Bench having met with the same fate, he is now before us in this
appeal by special leave. There is no dispute that at the time of the accident,
the appellant was travelling to his home town which is termed as `leave
station' under the rules on casual leave granted to him by the Competent Authority.
grant of disability pension is governed by the various rules found in Defence
Services Regulation. Rule 10 of the said rules reads thus :- "Casual leave
counts as duty except as provided for in Rule 11(a)." As per this rule
when an army personnel is on casual leave, same is counted as duty unless he
comes under any one of the exceptions under Rule 11(a) of the rules. It is not
the case of the respondents that the appellant comes under any such exceptions.
Therefore, as per Rule 10(a), the appellant was on duty at the time of the
accident. Rule 48 of the said regulation contemplates admissibility of
disability pension. It has enumerated various cases under which an army
personnel is entitled to the grant of disability pension. Rule 48 reads thus :-
"Disability pension when admissible- An officer who is retired from
military service on account of a disability which is attributable to or
aggravated by such service and is assessed at 20 per cent or over may, on
retirement, be awarded a disability pension consisting of a service element and
a disability element in accordance with the regulations in this section;"
In respect of accidents the following rules will be observed :- (a)........
person is also deemed to be `on duty' during the period of participation in
recreation, organised or permitted by Service Authorities and of travelling in
a body or singly under organised arrangements. A person is also considered to
be `on duty' when proceeding to his leave station or returning to duty from his
leave station at public expense." (emphasis supplied).
rule is a deeming provision which provides for situations under which a person
on duty, if he suffers disability, is entitled to the grant of disability
last part of this sub-rule provides that a person incurring disability when
proceeding to his leave station or returning to duty from his leave station at
public expense is also entitled to the grant of disability pension. The
controversy in this case is whether the qualification "at public
expense" found in this rule is so mandatory as to deprive an army
personnel who is travelling to his leave station or vice versa "on
duty", but at his own expense, of the benefit of disability pension if
expression "at public expense" is to be construed literally then
under the Rules referred to above, an army personnel incurring a disability
during his travel at his own expense will not be entitled to the benefit of
Rule 6c (supra). The object of the rule, as we see, is to provide relief to a
victim of accident during the travel.
that be so, the nature of expenditure incurred for the purpose of such travel
is wholly alien to the object of the rule. It is the duty of the Court to
interpret a provision, especially a beneficial provision, liberally so as to
give it a wider meaning rather than a restrictive meaning which would negate
the very object of the Rule.
Seaford Court Estates Ltd. v. Asher (1949 2 All ER 155), Lord Denning L.J. (as
he then was) held :- "When a defect appears a judge cannot simply fold his
hands and blame the draftsman. He must set to work on the constructive task of
finding the intention of Parliament .
then he must supplement the written word so as to give "force and
life" to the intention of the legislature. A judge should ask himself the
question how, if the makers of the Act had themselves come across this ruck in
the texture of it, they should have straightened it out ? He must then do as
they would have done. A judge must not alter the material of which the Act is
woven, but he can and should iron out the creases." This rule of
construction is quoted with approval by this Court in M Pentiah v. Muddala Veeramallappa
(1961 2 SCR 295) and also referred to by Beg, C.J. in Bangalore Water Supply
& Sewerage Board v. R Rajappa (1978 3 SCR 207) and in Hameedia Hardware
Stores, represented by its Partner S Peer Mohammed v. B Mohan Lal Sowcar (1988
2 SCC 513).
the above rule, we are of the opinion that the rule makers did not intend to
deprive the army personnel of the benefit of the disability pension solely on
the ground that the cost of journey was not borne by the public exchequer. If
the journey was authorised, it can make no difference whether the fare for the
same came from the public exchequer or the army personnel himself.
therefore, construe the words "at public expense" used in the
relevant part of the rule to mean travel which is undertaken authorisedly. Even
an army personnel entitled to casual leave may not be entitled to leave his
station of posting without permission. Generally, when authorised to avail the
leave for leaving the station of posting, an army personnel uses what is known
as "travel warrant" which is issued at public expense, same will not
be issued if person concerned is travelling unauthorisedly. In this context, we
are of the opinion, the words, namely, "at public expense" are used
rather loosely for the purpose of connoting the necessity of proceeding or
returning from such journey authorisedly. Meaning thereby if such journey is
undertaken even on casual leave but without authorisation to leave the place of
posting, the person concerned will not be entitled to the benefit of the
disability pension since his act of undertaking the journey would be unauthorised.
on facts there is no allegation in this case that the appellant while travelling
to his leave station on the fateful day was travelling unauthorisedly, we are
of the opinion that he is entitled to the benefit of disability pension as
provided under the Rules.
the reasons stated above, this appeal succeeds and is hereby allowed; the
impugned judgments are set aside and Writ Petition No.4004/91 also stands
allowed with all consequential benefits.