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Monday, 20 February 2012

From Today's Papers - 20 Feb 2012
Govt drags ex-Vice Chief of Army to SC
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, February 19
The government has dragged Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi, who retired as Vice-Chief of the Army Staff, to the Supreme Court over a dispute involving a difference of just five per cent in the disability pension.

Gen Oberoi lost his right leg below the knee during the 1965 India-Pakistan war when he was Captain.

Subsequently, his disability was assessed at 70 per cent. He was retained in service and he rose to the rank of Lieutenant General before his retirement in 2001.

The war hero claimed 75 per cent disability pension under a February 3, 2000 government circular on rounding off of benefit. Under the circular, personnel assessed at 20-50 per cent disability would be entitled to 50 per cent disability pension.

Similarly, the extent of disability from 50 to 75 per cent would be rounded off to 75 per cent and 75 to 100 per cent disability would be treated as 100 per cent disability.

Subsequently, the Defence Ministry issued a letter on January 31, 2001 disqualifying those retiring on superannuation from getting the rounding off benefit. Another letter on January 19, 2010, clarified that rounding off would be done only for those who were prematurely released from service.

Gen Oberoi challenged the two letters before a regional Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), Chandigarh, at Chandimandir, which allowed his claim for 75 per cent disability pension on August 4, 2010, directing the government to make the payment within six months. Any delay in the payment would entail an interest of 8 per cent.

The government has, however, moved the SC after a delay of 429 days, challenging the AFT’s judgment. Opposing the petition on behalf of Gen Oberoi, counsel Aishwarya Bhati contended that the matter had very serious ramifications as about 2,000 such cases were pending for adjudication.

After a brief hearing on February 17, a Bench comprising Justices Aftab Alam and CK Prasad tagged the petition with other similar cases and sought the response of Gen Oberoi.

In the appeal, the government contended that the AFT’s ruling was in violation of several SC verdicts, holding that there was a clear distinction between those invalidated out of service and those discharged from service on completion of tenure for the purpose of pension benefits. Further, the AFT had no power to strike down government orders.

This case has come to the SC close on the heels of the apex court resolving another high-profile dispute involving the age of Army Chief Gen Vijay Kumar Singh. The SC had rejected Gen Singh’s plea that his date of birth should be taken as May 10, 1951 on his service records and not as May 10, 1950 as directed by the government.
New counter-terror agency
Nodal body a wise move

Whenever there is a major terror strike anywhere in the country there is a justifiable hue and cry over the lack of cohesion and coordination between various agencies of the Central government and between the Centre and the affected state.

In that light the setting up of a National Counter-Terrorism Centre by the Union Home Ministry in fulfilment of a promise made by Home Minister P. Chidambaram in the wake of the Mumbai terror strikes of 2008 should have evoked relief and cheer. Instead, it has led to protests from eight chief ministers, including that of West Bengal where the ruling Trinamool Congress is part of the UPA.

The defined objective of the NCTC is to draw up and coordinate counter-terrorism plans, integrate intelligence gathering and coordinate with all existing investigating and intelligence agencies. The National Intelligence Grid which was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security in June 2011 will provide a data bank of 20 data bases like travel records, immigration details and income tax records to the new outfit. All this seems unexceptionable.

It is, therefore, pertinent as to why as many as eight states are opposing the setting up of the NCTC. With the Centre being weak and non-assertive, are these states pressurising the Centre to hold back the reform and thereby look compromised? Is this the beginning of efforts by Ms Mamata Banerjee and leaders of seven Opposition-ruled states to weld themselves together under a common cause with the ultimate idea of forging a new front?

This is not to say that all that the opposing states are saying is wrong and must be dismissed outright. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa has, for instance, objected to two features — the powers of arrests and searches sought to be given to the NCTC, which will be a division of the Central Intelligence Bureau, and the provision for the setting up of inter-state intelligence teams by the NCTC. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi too has opposed putting all intelligence agencies under the new body which he sees as an encroachment of state rights. Some of these objections could be looked into. But it would be great folly to stall such a move for a few relatively minor issues which can be sorted out.
AF to procure 71 more armed choppers
Press Trust of India / New Delhi Feb 19, 2012, 16:39 IST

Aiming at strengthening its medium-lift helicopter fleet, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is planning to procure 71 more Mi-17 V5 choppers, including 12 for the Ministry of Home Affairs.

These would be in addition to the 80 already ordered from Russia.
The MI-17 V5 falls in armed helicopter category, with substantial and effective firepower. It has latest and more powerful engines that enhance its payload carrying capability at higher altitudes.

Of the 80 choppers ordered earlier, Defence Minister AK Antony formally inducted their first batch on Friday.

Of the 71 helicopters to be ordered, 59 would be provided to the IAF for replacing its old Mi-8 and Mi-17IV choppers and six would be given to the Border Security Force.

The remaining six would be distributed among the other central armed police forces, IAF officials said.

Earlier the IAF was proceeding with the acquisition of 59 choppers only but later on the MHA requested to club its requirements also in the same Defence Ministry proposal, they said.

In 2008, India had signed a deal with Russia to supply 80 Mi-17s to augment its existing fleet of around 150 Mi-8 and Mi-17 medium-lift choppers, which have over five tonne load carrying capability and are also used to ferry troops and VIPs.

IAF had felt the need of inducting more medium-lift choppers after a spate of natural disasters following the tsunami in December 2004 and heavy snowfall in Kashmir in 2005.

The Mi-17 V5 is an upgrade of Mi-17 choppers in the medium-lift category and is equipped with state-of-the-art avionics and on board navigation systems.

On the machine's capabilities, an IAF official said, "It has on-board weather radar, state-of-the-art autopilot and is compatible with the latest generation night vision goggles."

The Mi-17 variants have operated in various types of terrain, including Siachen Glacier, and have also proved their mettle in UN missions.
Global media to watch Antony's visit
Itanagar, Feb 19 (ANI): Defence Minister AK Antony is scheduled to arrive here on a two-day trip to attend the golden jubilee of Statehood Day on February 19.

Antony is expected to review the border situation from all angles, from military build-up to road development with the high-ranking defence officers. Of the total 3,500-km border India shares with China, 1,080-km touches Arunachal Pradesh.

Any statement which Defence Minister Antony makes, after getting first hand feedback from the army top brass and state Governor JJ Singh, a former Army chief, particularly from nation's security view point, will be watched by the global media particularly Beijing.

Antony had made his maiden tour to the state (Tawang) in April 2008.

Anthony, in a written reply to questions from Rajya Sabha members, had said: "On July 13 this year, a PLA patrol attempted to cross a 200 feet wall of loose stones constructed 250 metres on our side of LAC in Yangtse area of Tawang, which was prevented by our troops. The stone wall was partially damaged by PLA, which has been reconstructed."

After drawing Anthony's attention on the slow progress of BRO road work in his office on January 13. Arunachal's Planning, Finance and PWD Minister Chowna Mein sent another letter to him recently expressing his disappointment.

Addressing jawans at Tawang on April 6, 2008, Antony had said 'infrastructure development in the Northeast is now a top priority for the Government of India. Infrastructure development in the NE would not only contribute to the security of the nation but also accelerate the growth process of this vital region.

'In the past, required attention was not given to this region. There is no point in finding fault with anybody. It's our topmost priority now to develop infrastructure in the North- East', said Anthony.

Antony, who was accompanied by the then Army Chief Gen Deepak Kapoor, Defence secretary, Vijay Singh and other senior officials of the ministry had reiterated GoI's commitment to the modernization of the Armed Forces.

'Our overall objective is to provide you (Armed Forces personnel) with the latest equipment so that our Armed Forces continue to be one of the best in the world. Our endeavour will be to ensure an all-round welfare of Armed Forces personnel and their families. I wish to assure you that we will do whatever is humanly possible to give you the best', he had added. By Pradeep Kumar (ANI)
Another blot on Army, Lt Col accused of sodomy
A Lieutenant Colonel of Indian Army will be court martialled for sexually abusing his helper or sahayak. Lt Col Sarup Singh Sidhu was posted as an administrative commandant at Palampur in Himachal Pradesh when a jawan who was serving as his helper accused him for allegedly indulging in sodomy.

He has been into hot waters of controversy earlier also. In 2011, an NRI settled in Australia, Kharak Singh Bajwa had filed a complaint against Sidhu. Bajwa had alleged that Sidhu had taken Rs 30 lakhs and three cellphones worth Rs 1.2 lakhs from him on the ploy of settling criminal charges which Bajwa was facing.

Sidhu had claimed to Bajwa that he had close links with the DGP and the IG (headquarters); the latter was then having a share in the Ivy Hospital located at SAS Nagar (Ajitgarh). Failing to get any relief from Punjab Police, Bajwa asked Sidhu to return his money but Sidhu started threatening him instead of returning the money. Meanwhile, Sidhu claimed that Bajwa was only an acquaintance of him whom he had met through a lawyer.

Apart from this, Lt Col Sidhu had been questioned by CBI in case of an Army contractor Darshan Lal who had been reportedly missing from Ferozepur cantonment from June 6,2004.

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