CHENNAI, Jan 26 (PTI): The Madras High Court has lamented the over 30-year delay in granting freedom fighter pension to two people, including one who died during the pendency of his plea, and directed the Tamil Nadu and central governments to pay it.
In separate judgements on the petitions--one seeking pension from the state and another from the Centre, two judges highlighted the role played by freedom fighters, saying their service to the nation was immeasurable, and pension was not a charity or bounty, but conferment of an honour.
The petitions were filed by 89-year-old K Gandhi, and the wife of K Muthaiah, seeking the state and central government pensions respectively, requests for which were pending for more than 30 years.
While Gandhi himself will get the pension, in the case of Muthaiah, it will be his five legal heirs who will benefit as the man and his wife have both passed away.
Both Gandhi and Muthaiah were imprisoned in 1945 in different locations.
Allowing the petition by Gandhi, an Indian National Army member, Justice K Ravichandrababu expressed regret to the octogenarian who had to struggle for four decades to get the pension due to "bureaucratic dogmatism", and ordered the Tamil Nadu government to grant it in two weeks.
Justice R Suresh Kumar passing orders on the petition by Muthaiah's wife, said grant of pension to those who rendered valuable service to this great nation cannot be lightly dealt with by anyone in this country.
He directed the Centre to sanction pension from September 1972, when Muthaiah applied for it, till his death in June 2002 and to his wife from June 2002 to September 2006, when she passed away.
He directed that the arrears be calculated and the same be paid to the five legal heirs of Muthaiah
Justice Ravichandrababu, in his order, noted that Gandhi had applied for pension in 1980 and moved the court after waiting for 37 years.
He said pension was not a charity, but conferment of an honour on such selfless freedom fighters and the state should not wait for them to make their application for it.
"Sorry sir, you are made to suffer at the hands of our people too, as, unfortunately, this is how the bureaucratic dogmatism with wooden approach works, at times, in this country, for which you fought to get freedom," the judge said in his recent order.
He ordered the state government to pass an order granting pension from the date of Gandhi's original petition and serve such order to him at his door steps.
He also said, "It is a sorry state of affairs and saddening factor to note that a person, who fought for freedom of this country is again driven to fight now, even after freedom, unfortunately to get some financial assistance for his sustenance by way of such pension."
Gandhi had joined the INA floated by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and was a part of the Indian Independence League in Rangoon (now Yangoon), Burma (Myanmar). He was imprisoned in Rangoon Central Jail from May 1945 to December 1945.
He had applied to the state government for freedom fighter pension on July 6, 1980. He had also submitted a certificate by co-prisoner K Kalimuthu stating that both were imprisoned in the Burma jail together.
Besides, the petitioner had also furnished a personal knowledge certificate from INA Col Lakshmi Sahgal stating that he was a member of the INA and took part in the freedom struggle.
Pulling up authorities for not considering the plea on the sole ground of a discrepancy in Gandhi's age in the elector's photo identity card and the Ration Card submitted by him, the judge said the reason was irrelevant and immaterial.
He noted that the petitioner's participation in freedom struggle was not in dispute and he had submitted two "overwhelming evidence"--certificates by the co-prisoner and by Col Lakshmi Sahgal--vouching for Gandhi's credentials.
Referring to reminders sent to officials and their replies that the representation had been forwarded to the authority concerned, the judge said except doing so mechanically, the respondents had done nothing effectively or positively to consider the petitioner's request.
"Unfortunately, these respondents failed to note that but for such selfless contribution and participation in the freedom struggle by persons like the petitioner, we would have not been in the present position to deal with this matter like this," Justice Ravichandrababu said.
The order shall be served to Gandhi "at his doorstep" within a period of two weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of the court verdict, he said, adding the arrears shall be calculated and disbursed within four weeks thereafter.
In the second case, Justice Suresh Kumar said, "The freedom fighters' service to the nation is immeasurable. Had they not fought for freedom, we the 1.2 billion Indians cannot live in with liberty, rights, dignity and with economical sufficiency".
"If any small amount is paid to them, by way of freedom fighters pension either by the state government or central government, it is not a bonus or bounty to such great soul, as it shall be considered only a token of recognition for the valuable services the great personalities rendered to the nation," he said.
The judge, who was allowing a petition by Muthaiah's wife and the legal heirs, said applications for the freedom fighter's pension should be accorded top priority by authorities.
The Tamil Nadu government had sanctioned Muthaiah freedom fighter pension in 1969. He later applied for the central government pension in 1972 along with necessary certificates.
He died on June 24, 2002. As there was no response, his wife filed the present petition. During it's pendency, she also died on September 19, 2006. Thereafter, his legal heirs were impleaded as petitioners.
The judge said the participation of Muthiah in the freedom struggle cannot be put into dispute any more since the state pension had been sanctioned in 1969 itself.