The Supreme Court on Monday (March 20) told the Central government to comply with its 2022 ruling on payment of One Rank One Pension (OROP) arrears to ex-service personnel by February 28 next year.
After refusing to accept a sealed cover from the Centre about its stand on payment of OROP, the apex court said the Centre was duty bound to comply with the court’s judgement and pay up dues for 2019-2022 amounting to ₹28,000 crore.
A bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud also provided a time schedule to the defence ministry on payment of arrears categorised under several heads.
“The Union government is duty-bound to comply with the court’s judgement in the terms of the OROP scheme,” it said.
Also read: Govt to SC: Initiated process to withdraw communication on payment of OROP dues in 4 installments
The judges noted that out of 25 lakh pensioners, four lakhs did not qualify for the OROP scheme, as they were getting enhanced pensions and the Centre proposed to pay the arrears by April 30, 2023.
Reducing the time limit to February 28, 2024, the bench gave the time schedule for payment of arrears to different groups of pensioners under the OROP scheme.
The bench, also comprising Justices P S Narasimha and J B Pardiwala, said the six lakh family pensioners and gallantry award winners “shall be paid their OROP dues by April 30, 2023”. It said around four-five lakh retired servicemen aged 70 years and above shall be paid their OROP dues in one or more instalments by June 30.
The OROP dues for 10-11 lakh remaining pensioners shall be paid in three equal installments by February 28 next year, the bench said. The judges made it clear that the payment of the dues “will not affect further equalisation of pension of ex-servicemen to be done in 2024”.
Also read: Withdraw notification on OROP arrears in installments: SC tells Defence Ministry
The Supreme Court bench was hearing the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement’s (IESM) plea over payment of OROP dues.
Earlier during the hearing, the Supreme Court refused to accept the Centre’s sealed cover note about its views on the payment of OROP arrears. “We need to put an end to this sealed cover practice in the Supreme Court… This is fundamentally contrary to the basic process of fair justice,” it said.
“I am personally averse to sealed covers. There has to be transparency in court… This is about implementing orders. What can be secret here?” the chief justice asked.
Also read: SC raps defence ministry over payment of arrears of OROP in installments
The top court had on March 13 come down heavily on the government for “unilaterally” deciding to pay OROP dues in four instalments.
The defence ministry has recently filed an affidavit and a compliance note in the top court, giving the time schedule for payment of the arrears of Rs 28,000 crore to ex-servicemen for the years 2019 to 2022.
(With agency inputs)