One Rank One Pension
Indian Ex Servicemen Movement v Union of India
The SC will decide whether the Union government's OROP policy discriminates against older army retirees.
Petitioner: Indian Ex Servicemen Movement
Lawyers: Hufeza Ahmadi, Balaji Srinivasan, Arunava Mukherjee
Respondent: Union of India
Lawyers: N. Venkataraman
Does the Ministry of Defence’s 2015 notification announcing OROP violate Articles 14 and 15?
Does a system of periodic pension review (as opposed to automatic review) discriminate against older army retirees?
Is the Government bound by comments made in Parliament?
At an election rally in 2019, PM Narendra Modi thunderously proclaimed that he had fulfilled the promise that garnered him the support of army veterans in 2013—One Rank, One Pension (OROP). Army veterans, however, disagree with the Prime Minister’s self assessment. They have challenged the Union government’s OROP policy at the Supreme Court, arguing that it is realistically a One Rank Different Pensions policy.
OROP means that all army officers retiring at the same rank after the same period of service will get the same pension, irrespective of which year they retired. Pensions are calculated as a percentage of the last salary drawn by an officer. To ensure OROP, it is essential that the pensions of older veterans who retired earlier is increased whenever the salaries of younger officers are increased.
The demand for OROP is nearly fifty years old. The Union government discontinued OROP in 1973. Then, in 2008, the UPA astronomically enhanced civil servants’ salaries and pensions. Hundreds of army veterans returned their honours and badges, protesting the disparity created between defence forces and civil servants.
The BJP repeatedly promised that it would implement OROP at election rallies and on the Parliament floor between 2013 and 2015. In November 2015, the Ministry of Defence announced the Union government’s OROP policy through a letter. The Union government claims that this letter fulfils the veterans’ demands. Army officers argue that it introduces the ‘devil in the details’.
The 2015 notification provides for a periodic review of pensions of past retirees every five years. The officers argue that this is discriminatory as the past retirees will get less pension that more recent retirees until the fifth year when review is completed. This creates a class within the class of retired officers and hence violates Articles 14 and 15.
The officers argue that the Union government had agreed to implement an automatic review process during consultations. The Union government states that the promise was made by UPA Finance Minister P Chidambaram in 2014 without consultation or directions from the Ministry of Defence. The Union argues that it cannot be bound by discussions and comments made before the 2015 notification was issued.