6 Aug 2010

No disability pension unless Medical Board certifies: Supreme Court

In a recent decision the Supreme Court has declared that the Medical Board being an expert body to determine whether the disability alleged by a member of the armed forces has taken place during the service, the Court would be reluctant to interfere with the findings of the Board. The Court was examining the claim for disability pension by one Om Prakash Singh wherein the Medical Board had unanimously agreed that the disability was not caused by during the service. 

In the circumstances, the Court declining to interfere, declared the law to this effect in the following terms;
16. In Union of India & Others v. Baljit Singh (1996) 11 SCC 315 this Court observed as under:
“6. ... It is seen that various criteria have been prescribed in the guidelines under the Regulations as to when the disease or injury is attributable to the military service. It is seen that under Rule 173 disability pension would be computed only when disability has occurred due to a wound, injury or disease which is attributable to military service or existed before or arose during military service and has been and remains aggravated during the military service. If these conditions are satisfied, necessarily the incumbent is entitled to the disability pension. This is made amply clear from Clauses (a) to (d) of Para 7 which contemplates that in respect of a disease the Rules enumerated thereunder require to be observed. Clause (c) provides that if a disease is accepted as having arisen in service, it must also be established that the conditions of military service determined or contributed to the onset of the disease and that the conditions were due to the circumstances of duty in military service. Unless these conditions are satisfied, it cannot be said that the sustenance of injury per se is on account of military service. In view of the report of the Medical Board of doctors, it is not due to military service. The conclusion may not have been satisfactorily reached that the injury though sustained while in service, it was not on account of military service. In each case, when a disability pension is sought for and made a claim, it must be affirmatively established, as a fact, as to whether the injury sustained was due to military service or was aggravated which contributed to invalidation for the military service.”
17. A similar question came up for adjudication in the case of Union of India & Others v. Dhir Singh China, Colonel (Retd.) (2003) 2 SCC 382, wherein this Court in para 7 of the said judgment observed as under: 
“7. That leaves for consideration Regulation 53. The said Regulation provides that on an officer being compulsorily retired on account of age or on completion of tenure, if suffering on retirement from a disability attributable to or aggravated by military service and recorded by service medical authority, he may be granted, in addition to retiring pension, a disability element as if he had been retired on account of disability. It is not in dispute that the respondent was compulsorily retired on attaining the age of superannuation. The question, therefore, which arises for consideration is whether he was suffering, on retirement, from a disability attributable to or aggravated by military service and recorded by service medical authority. We have already referred to the opinion of the Medical Board which found that the two disabilities from which the respondent was suffering were not attributable to or aggravated by military service. Clearly therefore, the opinion of the Medical Board ruled out the applicability of Regulation 53 to the case of the respondent. The diseases from which he was suffering were not found to be attributable to or aggravated by military service, and were in the nature of constitutional diseases. Such being the opinion of the Medical Board, in our view the respondent can derive no benefit from Regulation 53. The opinion of the Medical Board has not been assailed in this proceeding and, therefore, must be accepted.”
18. A similar controversy came up before this Court in Union of India & Others v. Keshar Singh (2007) 12 SCC 675, in which this Court relied upon the Medical Board’s opinion to the effect that the illness suffered by the respondent was not attributable to military service.
19. In the instant case, the records reveal that, in the opinion of the Medical Board, the condition of the appellant cannot be said to have triggered on account of the military service. In the opinion of the Medical Board, the disease was not at all attributable to the military service. 
20. We have heard learned counsel for the parties at length. We are clearly of the view that the Medical Board is an expert body and they take into consideration all relevant factors and essential practice before arriving at any opinion and it opinion is entitled to be given due weight, merit credence and value.
21. In the instant case, the Medical Board has given unanimous opinion that the disease of the appellant was neither attributable to nor aggravated by the military service. The findings of the Medical Board has been accepted by the Division Bench of the High Court. Thus, in our considered opinion, no interference is called for. The appellant is not entitled to the disability pension. However, in case some amount has ever been paid to the appellant towards the disability pension, the same may not be recovered from him.

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