Sanjha Morcha

10 yrs after Lt Col’s death in Kashmir, widow gets pension

Vijay Mohan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 15

About 10 years after a Lieutenant Colonel was killed in flash floods while deployed in a counter-insurgency area, his wife has been awarded due pensionary benefits after the Armed Forces Tribunal ordered that the officer is to be considered a battle casualty in accordance with rules.The vehicle of Lt Col Indranuj Bogohain, from the Corps of Engineers, got swept away in flash floods when he was crossing the Ballini Nullah in J&K during operational movement under Operational Rakshak.Though the death was declared as battle casualty by the statutory court of inquiry that investigated the incident, the office of the Principal Controller of Defence Accounts refused to release the applicable liberalised family pension to his wife, Jonalima Borgohain, on the pretext that the death did not occur in a war-like situation.Observing that government policy provides that deaths occurring in notified operational areas are entitled to liberalised family pension, the tribunal’s Bench comprising Justice MS Chauhan and Vice Admiral AG Thapliyal directed the government to release the revised pension within four months.The Bench also relied upon past judgments of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and the Delhi High Court as well as AFT rulings in similar cases. The HC has earlier ruled that personnel posted in notified operational areas were intrinsically connected with the success of such operations and that such “textual interpretation” of beneficial policies should be avoided. It had also recorded that “this court cannot resist observing that when individuals place their lives on peril in the line of duty, the sacrifices that they are called upon to make cannot ever be lost sight of through a process of abstract rationalisation.”Earlier, a committee of experts constituted by the then Defence Minister to recommend measures for reducing litigation in the armed forces had also come down heavily on the Defence Accounts Department for misinterpretation of rules and denying due benefits to individuals, thereby compelling them to seek judicial intervention.