New Delhi: A retired lieutenant colonel has sent a legal notice threatening to sue former adjutant general Lt Gen Ashwani Kumar for Rs 1 crore over his “disparaging remarks” about the disability pension.
Lt Col Niraj Bakshi (Retd) is a beneficiary of the disability pension and wants Lt Gen Kumar to withdraw his remarks and apologise.
An adjutant general is the head of a critical wing of the Army that takes care of administrative and legal affairs. Speaking to a news channel before his retirement last week, Lt Gen Kumar had sought to delink what he termed lifestyle diseases from conditions or ailments that make personnel eligible for a disability pension.
He also said low hearing could not be seen as a disability because there were aids available to help patients hear normally.
Other controversial remarks touched upon homosexuality, adultery and a proposed code of conduct for retired officers, who currently don’t fall under the Army Act.
In a legal notice sent to Kumar, with a copy marked to the defence secretary, Lt Col Bakshi said his views were against the expressed statement of the defence minister, statutory provisions, and judgments issued by high courts and the Supreme Court.
“The defence minister has very wisely, sensitively, rightly stated on the floor of the house that he will ensure that no benefit to disabled soldiers will be withdrawn,” the notice reads. “You (Kumar) merely being an officer of the attached office, had the temerity to make uncalled for comments which go against the statement of the defence minister and also against disabilities that have been endorsed in government rules,” it adds.
He said rising disabilities were a challenge in armies around the world, but nowhere are disabled soldiers being shamed in this manner.
“By your utterances you have also shown utter disregard to all the past adjutant generals and chiefs of Army staff who steadfastly stood behind disabled veterans and tried to ensure a better quality of life for their troops and to bring rising disabilities to a lower level,” he added.
“You have also given an impression as if disabled … soldiers ‘beg’ or ‘ask’ for disabilities when the real position is that the government itself rightly grants disability pension to disabled personnel,” he said.
The Lt Col also hit out at the proposed code of conduct for veterans, saying it was an “illegal supposition” since retirees are not bound by service rules.
Army HQ view
Speaking on the proposal to tax disability pension unless a disability sustained on the job forces personnel out of service, a senior officer from the Army Headquarters said the force was trying to “incentivise” fitness and not trying to punish disability.
Asked about the code of conduct, the officer said there is a “vast, silent, larger majority” that supports the idea, and sought to emphasise the “special privilege” defence personnel enjoy in carrying forward their ranks after retirement.
“This is a singular honour, provided to the services for their discipline, dedication and selfless devotion to duty, which cannot be compared to any other service,” he said. “Post-retirement, since service officers are identified by their rank and are given privileges, we are expected to maintain the high standards,” he said.
“It’s being deliberated for all ranks… we all conduct ourselves as the nation expects us to conduct ourselves as soldiers,” he added. “We, of the services, must remain inspiring.”
ThePrint had reported on 4 November that the Army Headquarters is in the process of finalising a code of conduct for retired officers, a proposal several veterans have criticised as a “silly idea”.