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Freedom Fighter Pension – whether can be given even if he is found a bogus freedom fighter – Apex court held that In the facts and circumstances of this case, we have no hesitation to restore the judgment and order passed by the Single Bench of the High Court at Patna. The judgment and order of the Division Bench is set aside. As the respondent has been wrongly allowed pension after rejecting claim at the first instance by the appellant, the High Court has directed suo motu inquiry and on this basis pension had been withdrawn, and also considering the fact that the recipient of pension respondent No.1 has died, we direct that the amount paid to him shall not be recovered from his legal representatives. = CIVIL APPEAL NO.6651 OF 2008 Union of India & Anr. … Appellants Versus Jai Kishun Singh (D) through L.Rs. & Ors. … Respondents =2014 – sep. month – http://judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=41910

Freedom Fighter Pension – whether can be given even if he is found a bogus freedom fighter – Apex court held that In the facts and circumstances of  this  case,  we  have  no  hesitation  to restore the judgment and order passed by the Single Bench of the High  Court at Patna.  The judgment and order of the Division Bench is  set  aside.   As the respondent has been wrongly allowed pension  after  rejecting  claim  at the first instance by the appellant, the High Court has  directed  suo  motu inquiry and on this basis pension had been withdrawn, and  also  considering the fact that the recipient of pension respondent No.1 has died,  we  direct that the  amount  paid  to  him  shall  not  be  recovered  from  his  legal representatives. =

whether  Freedom  Fighter  pension  had  been  undeservingly   extended   to

respondent No.1 inspite of the fact that he did not participate  in  freedom

struggle as he was a child of 7 to 8 years in the year 1942.=

Grant of freedom fighters’ pension to bogus  claimants  producing  false

and fabricated documents is as bad as genuine freedom fighters being  denied

pension. The only way to respect the sacrifices of freedom  fighters  is  to

ensure that only genuine freedom fighters get the pension.

This  means  that

the Government should weed out false and fabricated claims  and  cancel  the

grant when the bogus nature of the claim comes to light.

In Union  of  India vs. Avtar Singh [(2006) 6 SCC 493] 

this Court therefore cautioned:

“8…….The genuine freedom fighters deserve to be treated with  reverence,

respect and honour. But at the same time it cannot be  lost  sight  of  that

people who had no role to  play  in  the  freedom  struggle  should  not  be

permitted to benefit from the liberal approach required  to  be  adopted  in

the case of the freedom fighters, most of whom  in  the  normal  course  are

septuagenarians and octogenarians.”

In the facts and circumstances of  this  case,  we  have  no  hesitation  to

restore the judgment and order passed by the Single Bench of the High  Court

at Patna.

The judgment and order of the Division Bench is  set  aside.

As the respondent has been wrongly allowed pension  after  rejecting  claim  at

the first instance by the appellant, the High Court has  directed  suo  motu

inquiry and on this basis pension had been withdrawn, and  also  considering

the fact that the recipient of pension respondent No.1 has died,  we  direct

that the  amount  paid  to  him  shall  not  be  recovered  from  his  legal

representatives.

The appeal is accordingly allowed.  No costs.

2014 – sep. month – http://judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=41910

Reportable

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CIVIL APPEAL NO.6651 OF 2008

Union of India & Anr. … Appellants

Versus

Jai Kishun Singh (D) through L.Rs. & Ors. … Respondents

J U D G M E N T

ARUN MISHRA, J.

In the case in hand, the Court is required to adjudicate upon the issue
whether Freedom Fighter pension had been undeservingly extended to
respondent No.1 inspite of the fact that he did not participate in freedom
struggle as he was a child of 7 to 8 years in the year 1942.

Initially, original respondent No.1’s case for granting such pension
was declined by the appellant vide letter dated 19.06.1995. However,
original respondent No.1 was successful in getting released pension on
second attempt and it was ordered to be released on 26.12.1997 with
retrospective effect from 28.07.1981.
The matter did not set at rest at that. The High Court at Patna
directed suo motu inquiry in the rampant complaints that large persons in
the State of Bihar were availing such benefits inspite of not having
participated in freedom struggle as contemplated under the Swatantrata
Sainik Samman Pension Scheme, 1980 (for short “the Scheme”). The Deputy
Collector conducted inquiry into the matter and recorded evidence. He
found that claim of the deceased respondent No.1 was not genuine. On that
basis, the Union of India issued show-cause notice and thereafter took
decision on 19.05.2004 to cancel pension with effect from the date it was
initially sanctioned, i.e. 28.07.1981 and the amount of pension already
drawn by him be recovered.
The deceased respondent No.1 unsuccessfully impugned the aforesaid
order in writ petition filed before the Single Bench. However, the Division
Bench of the High Court in the appeal has quashed the order. Hence, the
Union of India has come up in appeal before us. The operation of order
passed by the Division Bench of the High Court was stayed by this Court on
10.11.2008.

The learned counsel for the appellants submitted that pension was
rightly withdrawn. The age of the deceased respondent No.1 was 7 to 8
years in 1942. Thus, his participation in the incident of August 1942 was
rightly disbelieved. He was unable even to give details of the incident in
the course of inquiry. The reliance placed by the Division Bench on the
determination of age by the Medical Board at 73 years in 2001 was uncalled
for as the Medical Board has not conducted scientific tests and has opined
on the basis of physical appearance of the original respondent No.1. He
had also submitted that the original respondent No.1 had stated his age on
06.06.1977 to be 40 years while deposing in Criminal Case No.1018/1974
(Trial No.381/77). Apart from this, in the Voter List of 1975, his age has
been mentioned as 42 years. Thus, at the age of 7 to 8 years, the claim
that he participated in freedom struggle could not be said to be
believable.

Per contra, the counsel for L.Rs. of the deceased respondent No.1
would submit that pension had been rightly sanctioned in 1997. Thereafter,
in view of the report of Medical Board, there was no reason to withdraw it
as the age at the relevant time in 1942 would have been 13 years.

The main question for consideration is what was the approximate age
of deceased respondent No. 1 on 15th August, 1942. He has claimed that his
age was 13 years when he went underground for a year w.e.f. 14th August,
1942 to 15th August, 1943.

The enquiry officer recorded oral statement indicating that his age was
much less. We discard such statement as oral statement cannot be a safe
criteria for arriving at conclusion. However, the documentary evidence of
the years 1975 and 1977 in the form of Voter List and deposition-sheet
clinches the issue and establishes that the claim is not genuine.
Documentary evidence has to prevail, more so as there was no such dispute
as to age at the relevant time. As per deposition-sheet of criminal case,
age was approximately 40 years in 1977. If the said date is taken as
correct, the date of birth would come to the year 1937. As per Voter List
of 1975, his age was 42 years. From aforesaid documents in consideration,
age in 1942 would have been above 5 years and below 10 years. At such an
age, participation in the incident in question is highly improbable as such
cancellation of the pension in the facts and circumstances of the case,
could not be said to be unwarranted at all.

The freedom fighter pension is a form of gratitude extended by an
indebted nation in recognition of the sacrifice made by the freedom
fighters to achieving independence. We are conscious of the fact that
liberal approach has to be adopted in such matters so that rightful persons
are not deprived of deserving benefit for lack of evidence, after a lapse
of long time. It has been laid down by this Court that such cases have to
be decided on preponderance of probabilities and standard of proof
beyond reasonable doubt is not to be applied.

Relying upon Gurdial Singh vs. Union of India (2001) 8 SCC 8 in
Kamlabai Sinkar vs. State of Maharashtra & Ors. (2012) 11 SCC 754, this
Court has laid down thus :

“6. Having perused the above materials on record, at the very outset, we
wish to refer to the observations made by this Court in regard to the grant
of freedom fighters’ pension in the decision in Gurdial Singh v. Union of
India. In para 7 of the judgment, this Court has highlighted the manner in
which such claims are to be considered for grant of freedom fighters’
pension. It will be worthwhile to make a reference to the said passage
before expressing our conclusion with regard to the claim of the
appellant’s husband in the case on hand.”

7. Para 7 reads as under: (Gurdial Singh case)

“7. The standard of proof required in such cases is not such standard which
is required in a criminal case or in a case adjudicated upon rival
contentions or evidence of the parties. As the object of the Scheme is to
honour and to mitigate the sufferings of those who had given their all for
the country, a liberal and not a technical approach is required to be
followed while determining the merits of the case of a person seeking
pension under the Scheme. It should not be forgotten that the persons
intended to be covered by the Scheme had suffered for the country about
half-a-century back and had not expected to be rewarded for the
imprisonment suffered by them. Once the country has decided to honour
such freedom fighters, the bureaucrats entrusted with the job of
examining the cases of such freedom fighters are expected to keep in
mind the purpose and object of the Scheme. The case of the
claimants under this Scheme is required to be determined on the basis
of the probabilities and not on the touchstone of the test of ‘beyond
reasonable doubt’. Once on the basis of the evidence it is probabilised
that the claimant had suffered imprisonment for the cause of the
country and during the freedom struggle, a presumption is required to be
drawn in his favour unless the same is rebutted by cogent,
reasonable and reliable evidence.”

[emphasis added]

We are unable to rely upon determination of age by the Medical Board as it
is based upon physical appearance only and not based upon any scientific
medical test like ossification test and radiological examination. When it
is based on such scientific tests as laid down in Om Prakash vs. State of
Rajasthan & Anr. (2012) 5 SCC 201, it is of strong corroborative value.
The Medical Board held on 11.4.2002 has opined on physical appearance basis
age about 73 years. It is not based on scientific tests hence it cannot be
accepted, more so in view of other documentary evidence on record.

This Court in State of Orissa vs. Choudhury Nayak (D) through L.Rs. & Ors.
(2010) 8 SCC 796 has adversely commented on undeserving candidates availing
the benefits of such welfare schemes, thus:

“9. It is of some interest to note from the statistics furnished by the
Central government in their additional affidavit, that 1,70,813 freedom
fighters/dependants have been sanctioned freedom fighters pension (as on
31.5.2010). At present as many as 60000 persons are getting pension or
family pension as freedom fighters/dependants. The average pension of a
freedom fighter and after his/her death to the spouse is Rs.12400/- p.m.
and the average pension paid to a dependant unmarried daughter is Rs.3000
per month. The expenditure for the year 2009-2010 under the scheme was
Rs.785 crores. We have referred to these figures only to show that when
false claims come to the notice of the Central Government, it is bound to
take stern action. Any complacency on the part of the Government in taking
action against bogus claims under any scheme would encourage bogus claims
under all schemes, by undeserving candidates who are “well connected and
influential”. False claimants walking away with the benefits meant for
genuine and deserving candidates has become the bane of several welfare
schemes.

10. xx xx xx

11. Grant of freedom fighters’ pension to bogus claimants producing false
and fabricated documents is as bad as genuine freedom fighters being denied
pension. The only way to respect the sacrifices of freedom fighters is to
ensure that only genuine freedom fighters get the pension. This means that
the Government should weed out false and fabricated claims and cancel the
grant when the bogus nature of the claim comes to light. In Union of India
vs. Avtar Singh [(2006) 6 SCC 493] this Court therefore cautioned:

“8…….The genuine freedom fighters deserve to be treated with reverence,
respect and honour. But at the same time it cannot be lost sight of that
people who had no role to play in the freedom struggle should not be
permitted to benefit from the liberal approach required to be adopted in
the case of the freedom fighters, most of whom in the normal course are
septuagenarians and octogenarians.”

In the facts and circumstances of this case, we have no hesitation to
restore the judgment and order passed by the Single Bench of the High Court
at Patna. The judgment and order of the Division Bench is set aside. As
the respondent has been wrongly allowed pension after rejecting claim at
the first instance by the appellant, the High Court has directed suo motu
inquiry and on this basis pension had been withdrawn, and also considering
the fact that the recipient of pension respondent No.1 has died, we direct
that the amount paid to him shall not be recovered from his legal
representatives.

The appeal is accordingly allowed. No costs.

…………………….J.

(Vikramajit Sen)

…………………….J.

(Arun Mishra)
New Delhi,
September 10, 2014.

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