Writ Petition Summary (OROP)One Rank One Pension
Background & Issue
One Rank One Pension (OROP) is a policy that ensures army officers retiring with the same rank, after the same period of service will receive the same pension.
The Union Government discontinued the OROP policy in 1973. During the 2014 elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) repeatedly promised that they would implement OROP if they came to power. Once the BJP had formed the Union Government, the Ministry of Defence announced its OROP policy through a letter in November 2015.
The Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement challenged the Union’s OROP policy at the Supreme Court on April 20th 2017. They are an all-India federation of military veterans from all three defence services which aims to promote the welfare of ex-servicemen.
Army veterans argued that the Union’s version of OROP ‘perverted’ the definition of OROP and arbitrarily created a separate class of pensioners within those who already held the same rank. Servicemen who retired after January 1st 2014 would receive pensions based on their last drawn salary, which would be higher than the pensions for those who retired before this date. The latter would receive pensions based on the salary drawn for their rank in 2013. These pensions will be reviewed periodically every five years.
What do they Seek?
- Directions declaring the Union Government’s OROP policy as unconstitutional for violating the Right to Equality and the Right to Livelihood.
- Directions to automatically enhance the pension of those who retired prior to 2014.
- Directions to include widowed wives of soldiers to those receiving benefits under OROP.
- Directions to implement OROP for soldiers drawing disability pensions.
OROP is arbitrary and unconstitutional
On November 7th, 2015 the Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Defence wrote a letter to the Chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force describing the OROP policy. The petitioners argue that the policy creates a separate class of pensioners within each rank—those who retired before January 1st, 2014 and those who retired afterwards. They insists that the ‘true definition’ of OROP mandates that the pensions for those retiring with the same rank must be the same regardless of their date of retirement.
By doing so, they argue that the Union Government has violated the Court’s directions in the case of Union of India v SPS Vains (2008). In SPS Vains, the Court held that the creation of a separate class within an existing class of pensioners is unconstitutional as it violates the Right to Equality.
The petitioners further argue that the cut-off date and the decision to review pensions periodically instead of automatically—whenever there is an enhancement of pensions—are arbitrary and violate the Right to Livelihood.
Additionally, according to the petitioners OROP does not include benefits to soldiers with disabilities or the spouses of deceased officers, which would similarly violate the rights to Equality and Livelihood.