World War I soldier's 103-year-old daughter get relief from AFT

Lucknow: Nine years after pension was stopped for her and a long legal battle, the daughter of a First World War soldier got justice from the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) at the age of about 103 years.

Pension for Siri Kumari Gurung was stopped in 2007 and she was asked to refund Rs 5 lakh on the ground that she was not entitled for two pensions. Her father was a soldier for the country in the First World War and died on March 8, 1916 in Italy.

Gurung, then 5-years-old, got family pension which was sactioned for life with effect from March 9, 1916. She later married an army soldier who died on September 17, 1964 and on account of it, ordinary family pension was also given to her. This way, the petitioner was getting two pensions.

In 2007, the matter came to the knowledge of Principal Controller of Pension Department, Allahabad. He wrote a letter that her pension sanctioned in 1916 be stopped and since it had been paid illegally, recovery may be made.

As a consequence, about Rs 5 lakh was liable to be returned by the petitioner and Rs 1.17 lakh was recovered from her.

The Lucknow regional bench of AFT set aside a telegram of the Principal Controller of Defence Accounts (Pension) Allahabad and copy of a post of 2007 stopping her family pension which was sactioned in 1916, with all consequential benefits.

The Tribunal imposed Rs one lakh cost on the respondents - Government of India and army officers concerned - that has to be deposited by them in AFT within four months for payment to the old woman.

It also directed the respondents to refund the recovered amount of pension (Rs 1.17 lakh) to her along with 10 per cent per annum interest from the date of recovery within four months and the arrears of pension.

The AFT further directed to continue her pension on account of death of her father for life with all consequential benefits.

"It shall be open for the respondents to recover the costs to be paid to the petitioner from the salary of person or persons responsible in stopping the petitioner's pension by appropriate inquiry," the Tribunal ruled.

A division bench of Justice Devi Prasad Singh (judicial member) and Air Marshal Anil Chopra (administrative member) passed the judgement on April 11, while allowing the plea of Gurung who approached the AFT aggrieved with the stoppage of her family pension which she was receiving on account of death of her father since First World War.

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